Internet Movie Database Nitrate Online Review
Contents | Features | Reviews | Books | Archives | Store
storeimg.gif (3164 bytes)
Movie Credits Buy It!


Review by Elias Savada
Posted 12 February 1999

  Written and directed by Carlos Saura

Starring Miguel Ángel Sola, Mía Maestro,
Cecilia Narova, Julio Bocca, Juan Carlos Copes,
and Carlos Rivarola.

Cinematic lord of the dance Carlos Saura sure makes you feel like taking to the ballroom floor or the nearest Arthur Murray studio, even for those of us with two left feet. As in Flamenco, he fills your passion plate, but unlike that performance film, here we also dine on sizzling morsels of whirling visions and entrancing shadows, with abundant tastes of colorful chiaroscuro and reflected bodies. Emotionally captured by the omnipresent lens of Vittorio Storaro (Apocalypse Now, Reds, The Last Emperor), the award-winning Italian master of light and image, and enthusiastically scored by Argentinean composer Lalo Schifrin, a multiple Grammy winner and Oscar nominee, you’ll be enthralled as the film builds to a tumultuous climax over its near two hour length. The film, nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Foreign Film (from Argentina), also has a nod in that category at the Academy Awards show later this month.

There’s something more a-foot in this international smorgasbord of tapping souls than its slender, disjointed plotline, which merely acts as a contrivance to ravishly showcase some of the greatest tango artists. The film isn’t a traditional documentary, rather a personal fantasy, a poetic tone piece framed around Mario Suárez (Miguel Ángel Sola), a Buenos Aires director immersed in a tango musical, and the women in his life, the recently rejected Laura Fuentes (Cecilia Narova) and his new discovery, the beautiful and passionate 23-year-old brunette Elena Flores (Mia Maestro), who brings along a failing association with a mobster/restaurateur who is also financially linked to the Mario’s project.

Saura’s forté is his complex blending of layers of illusion through the use of color and camerawork, as Mario’s confusion amid his smoldering mid-life crisis (tinged with jealousy) intermingles with his creative wanderings on his project, i.e., is it reel or real. Relationships are blurred as nightmares and daydreams haunt our vision of cinematic reality. Wandering about his set one evening, he turns on a wind machine and the costumes sway, filing over the bodies of his cast in a 1920s flapper setting as Elena and Laura alluringly tango over a checker-board stage. Lit from the sides (most of the film has no overhead lighting), the women have masked light projected on them as well.

The nature of the Mario’s artistic endeavor is similarly confounding, probably on purpose, although I always fear I am losing something when it is translated through subtitles. Is he a filmmaker, as evidenced by the unmanned camera that floats about the stage on an extended crane, or is that the filmmaker Saura’s Arri hovering before it’s self-referential self in the multi-mirrored set. Or is it a television piece because of the smallish, darkly-lit sets. The climax is played out before a group of onlookers sitting on chairs during a full dress rehearsal, so is this, perhaps, a theatrical extravaganza?

When Mario returns to his old school to recruit some children for his show, he has a faux flashback, if that’s the proper terminology. Is a small child, also named Mario, the director as a child, or not. The school’s director and Mario watch as the children, still green in their talent, take to the dance floor. Again, the blurring of present and past as Mario watches concertedly. Tango relishes in such bits of screen whimsy, which makes this such an enjoyable watch.

As the film progresses, Mario’s concept grows more daring, as his dancers, dressed in army camouflage, interrogate and torture the star (a harsh rebuke to the military pasts of Argentina and Spain, no doubt), a sequence that causes a bit of friction among his backers, watching off stage.

Tango represents a bold effort from one of the masters of world cinema, a film broadly set on the duality of cinematic reality and illusion. A realistic, haunting fantasy with power and passion as we gaze at the actor/dancers engage in their seductive magic. Do let yourself become entranced by Tango’s rhythms and dance the night away.

Contents | Features | Reviews | Books | Archives | Store

Copyright © 1999 by Nitrate Productions, Inc. All Rights Reserved.  Copyright © 1996-2005 by Nitrate Productions, Inc. All Rights Reserved.