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Sunday, October 14, 2007

A Vision of Tango

One of my other passions, which I've had much longer than tango, is cinema. It's something that fills in the cracks of my life and the more I watch and study different types of film, the more I realize there's so much to learn that I don't even know about yet (just like tango).

One thing that I wish there was more of, now that I'm able to dance tango, are quality films that express the beauty and truth of what tango really is.

Especially because it was a film, The Tango Lesson, that opened my eyes to the existence of tango in the first place. But now that I've seen that film again, after now studying and dancing regularly, I can't watch it with the same undiluted admiration because I watch the movie with a critical eye. (Also, I've read La Planchadora's review, which left me in tears from laughing.) Aside from youtube tango videos, which certainly fill a need, films that feature tango leave a lot to be desired. They either have random flashes of brilliant dancing and terrible stories, or mediocre dancing that is highly edited with mediocre stories.

What I like about the short film here is that it evokes a place where tango is a part of life. It's more of an atmosphere than anything else, but it feels truthful to me.

Tango from Jono on Vimeo.


Anonymous October 14, 2007 at 3:08 PM  


I get what is appealing for you about this video TB: putting Tango into an everyday life context, instead of the limbo of a dance floor. But for me it misses the mark.

Mainly because I felt it failed to weave those everyday moments with an emotional context relating to Tango. The images themselves are neither sad nor happy nor do they really tell me about the mental state of the folks they show. Nor are they connected in any way to each other, the dance or the dancing couple, or even to Tango per se. (The dancers, even without any sound, however, are terrific and convey a delightful exuberance.)

The images don't even imply that tango is some secret inner life of everyday people. This is not how I perceive or experience tango, which for me is intensely emotional.

Also, I don't understand the soundtrack. This alone should tell you I'm old and perhaps too dense to "get" this modern stuff. What can I say: I'm a "purist".

But I think a tango played at 1/10th the speed, or a looped sample of a bandoneon would have produced an eerie yet richly emotional soundtrack that was was, nonetheless, tango.

This, juxtaposed with the frenzied steps, would have said something about the internal joyous nature of tango not always matching the outer, unintelligible, sometimes boring but often chaotic aspects of life.

Psyche October 15, 2007 at 4:12 AM  

I watched The Tango Lesson with fascination not long after I started dancing, when I was just desperate for more of tango in any form (I also read Kiss and Tango - yeeesh.). La Planchadora's review really is spot on (I would love to see her review Kiss and Tango :) ).

I've never yet found a film with tango in that I felt really happy about. I think that for me tango just doesn't lend itself well to the medium. For me, tango is a thing to be danced, to be felt, not to be watched, and a film is intrinsically something to be watched. Other forms of dance translate well to the screen because they are intended to be watched. But tango is inherently internal.

Actually, the only dance movie I can think of that I really love is Dirty Dancing! It satisfies my inner teen.

studio wellspring October 15, 2007 at 10:11 AM  

i enjoyed the cinematography in "the tango lesson", but i wasn't impressed with the acting and felt the dancing lacked integrity and passion. i loved yo-yo ma's cello in the score though. being new to tango, but very old to dance in general {i started tap when i was 4 & it just kept going from there} i can say that highest quality films about any dance form are rare. i loved gregory hines & mikhail baryshnikov in "white nights" (btw helen mirren starred in this as well) and i also loved "dirty dancing" ~ for very different reasons! :o)

La Nuit Blanche October 15, 2007 at 11:29 AM  

there are very few films about dancing/dancers that i like... one of them being, off the top of my head, "turning point", about ballet and the friendship between two women.

i also loved the cinematography of "the tango lesson" (albeit sentimental, with all the black and white and grain)...

is "the tango lesson" and "assassination tango" the only two films made about tango, by social tango dancers?

tangobaby October 15, 2007 at 11:43 AM  

I think we're all in agreement that a substantive film that satisfies our tango viewing needs does not yet exist. I would like to have a complete tango movie (plot, writing, dancing, acting) to enjoy for the times when I'm not dancing.

This little clip I found was more like someone's home movie...I checked his blog and appparently this guy is an avid skateboarder in the UK but nowhere does he indicate any experience with tango. But I thought he was creative and artistic with his footage.

Aside from The Tango Lesson and Assassination Tango (gag), there's also the movie Tango, but aside from a couple of scenes (especially the one in Confiteria Ideal), I just find that movie a snoozefest. The characters are boring.

Now I feel like I have to watch Dirty Dancing and Footloose again. I watched Strictly Ballroom again a few months ago... I love that last scene with the Pasodoble but it's so chopped up that you don't get to really experience the dancing. And of course there's the Tango "Roxanne" in Moulin Rouge, but again, not what I'm looking for, personally.

I guess that's one thing I admire about the old musicals. They never cut away from the dancers, and they show them full frame so you always see the entire body in motion.

La Nuit Blanche October 15, 2007 at 3:10 PM  

i love "strictly ballroom"!!! and the girl's transformation into a beautiful spanish dancer. i love that scene in the gypsy backyard, when the old man shows everyone what the real paso doble looks like, hehe.

i personally liked the tango clip above. it was refreshing to see tango in the context of something other than the cheesy, slef-absorbed "seduction" stereotype that other films are infused with. it was almost a matter of fact -- so intricately tied in with daily life, that one wouldn't notice it unless one thought about it.

i wonder if that's what it's like for people who live in BsAs, but don't tango?

(i have to agree with johanna, though, that the electronic music was a bit too much!)

p.s. i can't stand "moulin rouge." i cringed through every part of that movie.

Anonymous October 15, 2007 at 3:44 PM  

Nuit, I must be a philistine, since I could not watch Moulin at all (even though everyone I know RAVED about it). I cut out after 10 minutes and required sedation afterwards. I think if you're going to have singing, you should cast people who can actually sing. But hey, I'm weird that way.

Incidentally, I watched a rather melodramatic and overwrought dance movie with Patrick Swayze called One Last Dance. His partner in the movie, Lisa Niemi, is one of the most gorgeous dancers I've ever seen. Non-tango, but so filled with depth and emotion. Worth sitting through it just to see her move.

So, the gauntlet has been thrown down, and we must - perhaps communally - write and produce a satisfying and fulfilling Tango movie for us social dancers...

Colbay October 15, 2007 at 7:53 PM  

WOW. That video is gorgeous. Thank you.

miss tango in her eyes October 16, 2007 at 8:35 AM  

My mother hates arty movies, but she really seemed to like the Tango Lesson, but I think Pablo Veron was wetting her whistle. Personally the movie makes me cringe.

Psyche October 16, 2007 at 10:01 AM  

Oh yes, Strictly Ballroom! I cry all the way through it, though. But then I cry at the drop of a hat.

It drives me crazy too when dance is shot with too many choppy close-ups. You can't beat a nice bit of Estaire and Rogers for dance scenes, imo.