Tango - B-
Viewed February 14, 1999 at the Angelika

If only Tango stuck to tango. As a performance film, Carlos Saura's new film is a visual and aural treat, with fine music and dancing and rivetingly beautiful camerawork by Vittorio Storaro. Its joys are fairly obvious, and since I wouldn't know a tango from a foxtrot, critiquing the dancing is beyond my ken. But there must be something about tango that seems to inspire metacinematic plotting -- Sally Potter's The Tango Lesson emerged as a quasi-documentary about the making of itself, and Carlos Saura here indulges in similar hall-of-mirrors noodling; the first scene in the film shows the main character, a director writing the scene that we're seeing on the screen. But what worked in The Tango Lesson fails here completely since there's no consistent thematic approach; it's just pointless wool-gathering. (At least The Tango Lesson was unified by its own narcissism.) I'm not sure, for example, if our director protagonist, Mario, is making a film or a live production -- while we see cameras around, the characters don't talk about making a film but about making a show. (This may be a subtitle problem, and my Spanish is far rustier than it should be.) The final shot of the film - a slow pan-and-zoom of the camera toward a mirrored wall - sums up the film quite well : it's a technical dazzler, a bravura display of cinematographic virtuousity; but intellectually, it's a cringingly hollow attempt at philosophical depth and meaning.