Synopsis: Mario Suarez (Miguel Angel Sola) is a filmmaker trying to cope with life after breaking up with his former lover, Laura (Cecilia Narova), who also happens to be one of the lead actresses in his latest film.
Tango is a story about the making of Mario’s film, and we see his thoughts, desires, emotions, and view of life expressed through various stages of the film making process.
When a beautiful young dancer, Elena Flores (Mia Maestro of Alias fame), soon joins Mario’s cast, he finds his passion for life renewed, and begins falling for her. However, she is the girlfriend of Angelo Larroca (Juan Luis Galiardo) one of the film’s major investors with possible mob ties. As the situation unfolds, the line separating real life and the fictional world of film begins to blur.
The Good: Set in Argentina, it’s easy to interpret the “blending of reality and fantasy theme” as a reference to author Jorge Luis Borges, one of the most famous figures in Argentine literature.
Even though the story takes place in the modern world, Tango often displays a fantastical twist in both production design and story development, which may lend itself to comparisons to magical realism (a genre Borges was well known for exploring).
Nominated for an Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film in 1998, Spanish Director Carlos Saura’s film could have easily been a “movie about nothing,” a hollow script interspersed with good dance sequences.
But it isn’t.
Saura keeps things on track as mainly a character piece focusing on Mario. The many emotional facets of the dance provide insight into Mario’s emotional state of mind as he simultaneously creates his film and examines his life.
That being said, there are a good number of dancing sequences in this movie and they don’t disappoint. Juan Carlos Copes, informally known as the “Godfather of Argentine Tango,” and the many other dancers in this film are a joy to watch.
Not only was Copes one of the film’s dance choreographers, he also plays the role of Mario’s dance choreographer within the context of the story.
Set lighting probably isn’t the first thing we look for when watching movies, but it’s difficult not to notice the incredible way in which Oscar-Winning cinematographer Vittorio Storaro illuminates each scene. Storaro, you may know, was also the cinematographer for Apocalypse Now and The Last Emperor. And to see his expertise at work on a film about dance is a visual treat.
The Bad: Arguably the ending. Don’t get me wrong, but when taking on a dramatic “film-within-a-film” idea, the blending of reality and fiction is pretty much the only way in which it can go. Yes, Tango does some creative things with this formula, but its conclusion can be seen either as a:
A) testament to the power of films and how they draw us in emotionally, and will make you think about everything you just saw, or
B) simply a cop-out because they didn’t know how to end it
It’s not good for such a carefully crafted film rich with visual metaphors to lend its ending to such a broad range of interpretation. Granted, the ending doesn’t kill the whole movie but it could have played out differently.
Who would like this movie: Tango dancers, of course. But if you don’t tango (shame one you :), I recommend this film if you have a taste for visual aesthetics.
But the most detailed recommendation I can give is that this film is good if you want to appreciate the unconventional sensibilities of an art film minus the “weirdness.”
The movie is slow-paced but isn’t boring, and it’s deep enough to get you thinking but won’t leave you scratching your head (until maybe the very end).
(3 out of 4 stars)
Made in: Argentina
Director: Carlos Saura
Starring: Miguel Angel Sola, Cecilia Narova, Mia Maestro, Juan Carlos Copes, Juan Luis Galiardo