Weekly Wire
Austin Chronicle Tango

By Marjorie Baumgarten

MARCH 29, 1999: 

D: Carlos Saura; with Miguel Angel Sola, Cecilia Narova, Mia Maestro, Juan Carlos Copes, Carlos Rivarola, Julia Bocca (PG-13, 113 min.)

Carlos Saura proves once again, as he did with his recent Flamenco and 1983's Carmen, that he is a master director of the dance film. In collaboration with his brilliant cinematographer Vittorio Storaro (Apocalypse Now, The Last Emperor) and Argentinean-born composer Lalo Schifren (Mission: Impossible), Saura has created a visual equivalent of the tango's intricacies, a dance which is described in the movie as "one body moving with four legs." With screens and mirrors, silhouettes and filters, costumes and choreography, the movie is a rich, evocative blend of moods in which each tango encounter expresses something new and different. Tango is propped up with a familiar but threadbare storyline about a choreographer whose creations are reflections and portents of events in his real life. Much like the plot of All That Jazz, his love life provides the stuff of his creative impetus. His wife has taken up with another man which leaves him fitful until he falls under the sway of his new dancer, who is also the paramour of his mobster/backer. Rather than the plot, what carries the movie along are its varied and distinctive dance scenes. There are dances of seduction between men and women and a dance of seduction between two women, a dance of Argentina's founding settlers and a dance of the recent military regime's madness and its disappeared victims, a dance between children and a dance between street-gang fighters. The narrative flow is loose but always intriguing and a stimulant for the senses. Those who know the tango are sure to find more details in the film's paces, yet amazingly, those who, like myself, are totally unfamiliar with the dance's nuances will find themselves rapt with pleasure. At nearly two hours, Tango could use a little more substance to its plot, yet the chance to bask for two hours in the wizardry of Storaro's lighting and camerawork is a delight that should be seized at every opportunity.
3.0 stars


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