Director: Carlos Saura
Screenplay: Carlos Saura
Cast: Miguel Angel Sola, Cecilia Narova, Mía Maestro
NY Distribution Status: long gone (Sony Pictures Classics)

Grade: C

Months after seeing it, my most vivid memory of Carlos Saura's latest dance picture is not, surprisingly enough, of legs thrusting or pelvises swiveling or profiles conjoined. It's not visual at all, in fact, but aural: what haunts me is a recurring, vaguely menacing theme composed by the great Lalo Schifrin (best known, I suppose, for his rousing theme for TV's Mission: Impossible, though he's also composed scores for everything from The President's Analyst to Doctor Detroit) -- a piece of music so insidiously thrilling that it was sometimes almost enough to convince me that the movie itself was thrilling, too. And perhaps it is, to those for whom the tango alone is entertainment enough (though I can't imagine that even dance aficionados are capable of suppressing a snort at the ludicrous, laughably grandiose death-camp number -- and no, I am not inventing that); anybody seeking more than just flamboyant footwork, on the other hand, must contend with a tired self-referential plot about the making of the very film we're currently trying to enjoy, only trouble being that we can't enjoy it because we're constantly being reminded that we're watching a movie -- the very same movie, in fact, that... (Etc.) Saura's previous effort, 1997's Flamenco (he's moving through Latin dance forms the way Branagh's moving through the Shakespeare canon), was admirably pure, dispensing entirely with narrative and character to simply showcase one exhilarating performance after another; I eventually got a bit bored, it's true, having a limited tolerance for dancing in which the hoofers don't also sing Porter or Gershwin tunes, but I can easily see how others might enjoy such uncomplicated virtuosity for hours on end. Waiting out the downtime between numbers in the company of a creatively-blocked film director who's falling in love with a lovely young ingénue who's unfortunately the moll of the very gangster who's coincidentally financing the director's work, on the other hand, has gotta be a bit of a chore even for the truly choreography-obsessed.