Many dance films nowadays tend to be all about street crews and dance offs…quite frankly, as much as the moves they do can be eye-popping, they are all the same. So, when the re-release of this film about the Argentine Tango popped up, I jumped at the chance.
The Tango Lesson is a semi-autobiographical film about Sally (writer and director Sally Potter, whose work includes The Man Who Cried (2000), in her first acting role), a film writer and director who is struggling with her latest project. By chance, she comes across a tango performance by Juan Veron (who plays himself) and is enchanted by the dance. She approaches him for lessons in exchange for a part in her film and slowly but surely, a creative relationship develops between the two as personal interests become professional.
Having learnt how to dance it for several years, Argentine Tango is a very intimate dance and though not as ‘fun’ as other dances like swing or salsa, dancers perform it is like it is an art form. That having said, The Tango Lesson is not for everyone. It is a slow moving film and there is not much in terms of plot or even originality. In fact, it is presented more like a documentary rather than an actual feature film, as it explores Sally’s love for the dance and the development of her relationship with Veron.
It is interesting to see the power struggle between the two; Sally, who is used to leading and directing people in her work, has to follow Veron in the dance whereas Veron learns how to take directions from Sally in film. What the two characters lack in emotional passion on-screen, they truly shine when they take to the floor. With most of the film shot in black and white, the style is minimalistic and doesn’t draw focus from the beautifully captured dance sequences, where Veron – who also acts as the film’s choreographer – takes more of an active role.
The Tango Lesson is essentially Potter’s personal take on the tango and what it represents between the couple. Artistic, escapist and occasionally abstract, it is better than an episode of Strictly and more intimate than the latest Step Up film.
Extras include a short behind-the-scenes documentary featuring Veron and his improvisational work in Charles de Gaulle airport, a recorded performance by Potter and Veron and a music video of Chinese cellist Yo-yo Ma performing Libertango, composed by Astor Piazzolla.
The Tango Lesson is out on DVD 10th September 2012.
Director: Sally Potter
Stars:Sally Potter, Pablo Verón, Morgane Maugran
Runtime: 100 min
Country: UK, France, Argentina, Germany, Netherlands