Tuesday, March 27, 2007

"The Tango Lesson."

My friend Cadencia gave me The Tango Lesson as a gift. I had seen it three years ago on one of those independent film channels you always end up watching right before you fall asleep, and I remembered it as some kind of weird fever dream with a goatee in it. Naturally I was excited by the opportunity to watch it while lucid.

"The Tango Lesson." A movie / real-life comparison.

MOVIE: Film director Sally Potter can't concentrate on her hilariously sucky movie and, after seeing a tango performance, tries to learn tango from Pablo Veron.

The dude may be a drunk, but he can jump!

She gets through one lesson that he teaches while totally hung over.

REAL LIFE: Uh, so far so good.

MOVIE: Because her imaginary movie kind of sucks, she finds fake holes all over her house and runs off to Buenos Aires to really learn tango, as in, learn tango from other people who are not drinkyface Pablo Veron.

REAL LIFE: Probably a good idea! I'm just saying, that crazy art movie went nowhere and it looks Pablo's dancing with himself, if you get me.

Sally introduces her leitmotif of unflattering, high-waisted bubble pants.

MOVIE: She takes what looks like two lessons from Gustavo Naveira and Fabian Salas, then hits Confiteria Ideal and manages to snag Omar Vega AND Cacho Dante.

REAL LIFE: Well, she ain't so great, it has to be said, but hey, if anyone can teach someone to tango in two lessons it's Gustavo and Fabian. Also, this movie makes me hope they are a wacky crime-fighting duo who run around fixing people's bad ochos and stuff all the time, because the world needs them! ALSO also, they could maybe have their wacky tuxedo-wearing friend "Flaco" Dany who helps them out sometimes, and their wacky high-speed weapons expert Jorge Firpo, and their counterintelligence superpower Geraldine Rojas! I'd pay money to see that movie! I'd pay more money to see that movie than I would to see this one, that's for damn sure.

Sally Potter and her wacky crimefighting trio

ps. If you watch that YouTube video, right when they have the establishing shot of the gentlemen, Cacho Dante is totally staring RIGHT AT THE CAMERA. It's one of my favorite moments in the whole movie. He's like, "I, uh...I'm just....camera."

MOVIE: Sally comes back from Buenos Aires and is bored by everything.

REAL LIFE: Hell yes. See also: anyone who ever went to Bs As and danced.

MOVIE: She misses tango, so she goes to see Pablo and they become BFFs and dance through a bunch of waiters trying to clean up and along a municipal waterway.

REAL LIFE: I'd say we're edging into Mary Sue territory, but apparently this actually happened to some extent, and later we get to see plenty of her dancing foibles, so I'll give her a pass.

MOVIE: They become professional dance partners in a sort of put-me-in-your-movie foreplay, except that Pablo only dances for himself and as soon as she starts in with, "So, you totally ignored me on stage in front of, like, three hundred people," he whips out the, "I'm a man, I need my space to BREATHE!" thing, which might work on a better actor but looks pretty hilarious on Pablo Veron.

REAL LIFE: Dude, this is every relationship in the history of time. Check.

MOVIE: They go back to Buenos Aires, where they pick up Gustavo and Fabian and begin working on choreography - and on their sizzling sexual tension!

In an attempt to escape the rain, Sally's pants crawl up her waistline seeking freedom!

REAL LIFE: Sally's not a good emoter, and neither is Pablo, and the sexual-tension part is just a lot of staring. However, you'll notice that all these scenes are saved by Gustavo and Fabian, Crime-Fighting Milongueros! (Gustavo is the serious, mythical one and Fabian is the lighthearted, playful one, and they work tirelessly to uncover the axis of every tango dancer! Hooray!)

MOVIE: The jealousy increases until Pablo busts up her tanda with another guy so he can dance with her himself.

REAL LIFE: I checked with a friend who lived in Bs As on this, and her answer was, "HAHAHAH, no." I'm going to take a wild stab and say that it would either not happen or not be tolerated if it did happen, because, come on.

ps. I have no video footage of this, but if you can get your hands on a copy of the movie, right after Pablo shoves Sally's partner, there's a mid-shot where you can see a pair of dancer extras. The dude's expression is the kind of horror and dismay one would expect if Pablo had come to the guy's house, shoved sand into his face, kicked his dog, and marched out. That extra is holding NOTHING back.

MOVIE: Ambiguous ending after some big fight about nothing.

REAL LIFE: Well, you have to give Sally points for knowing how relationships go. Another one for Sally.

I finished this movie with the prevailing thought that my fever dream had been pretty accurate.

There are a lot of things here that are totally artsy and contrived, and the fact that I could believe that they actually happened makes me a little sad for Sally - like, I can absolutely believe she'd call and leave a big Biblical anecdote on someone's answering machine. Should she be proud of this? I don't know. I guess it depends on how well it worked in real life.

I also have trouble with the fact that all the Argentine bigshots make a big deal out of how great a dancer she is; I can't blame her for wanting to make a movie where she dances with every bigshot but Flaco Dany, who must have been out of town, but later she makes a whole plot point out of the fact that she's NOT a very good follower, which just makes me feel like she was writing fanfiction in her head or something. I mean, who abandons their significant other ON THE DANCE FLOOR to come over and dance with someone else? (Yes, this happened. Just like they all cross the room and stand by the table while she's talking and wait to ask her to dance. Who let that happen?)

What I do think she got right is the addictive nature of tango; I love all the quiet moments where she hobbles around in her first pair of tango shoes, where she soaks her feet in the tub after a night of dancing. I love when she goes to the tea dance in Paris and even though at that point she hasn't been to Buenos Aires, you can see on her face that she knows this isn't really tango. That stuff is all great.

And this moment, thought totally contrived, is a very powerful representation of the struggle of tango, where the man seeks to contain the woman but needs her for balance, etc. This moment was the reason I chose this as my blog picture for so long.

This whole movie was the reason I took it off again. I'm on strike for Gustavo and Fabian: Crime-Fighters! I know you can do it, Sally! Make it happen!


Caroline said...

I loved that movie the first time I saw it. This was before I learned the tango. And now, the only thing I relate to is the addiction as you've mentioned.

Cadencia said...

You could drive a tractor through her ankles!

La Tanguera said...

Well, I admit that I found the movie mostly insufferable the first time I watched it. I thought it was just SP trying to showcase her tango skills--which in my view were not that great. It was also slow, and all the scenes on her writing a non-tango script just seemed endless. There was no true connection betwen her and PV. It was just ridiculous that suddenly all those Greats would want to dance with her. The no-connection, and no-point about her relationship with PV (no matter the great significance the movie wants to give aboutit at the end).

Never mind-I still loved the music, the dancing along the Seine, the whole idea about escaping to BA and getting inmersed in tango.

Over time, I think the movie has "grown" on me. I don't know what it is. The music certainly help; the BA environment (even if fake at times) also help. Maybe I was able to see that she did not mean to portray herself as a hot shot... but just her (actually failed) attempt to become a highly skilled tango dancer... because she really is just used by PV's character during the film. Maybe I'm understanding more about her humanity better as I watch it more.



La Planchadora said...

Caroline - it's the pants, I'm telling you. THE PANTS.

Cadencia - got it in one.

Tanguera - human she may be, but the ankles/pants points are hard to refute.

La Tanguera said...

Indeed! Open-ankled *and* used and abused...!:)

miss tango in her eyes said...

I forgot how good the soundtrack was, as I lost it when my computer crashed onetime.

I am really shocked they used that horrible photo as a poster for the movie. Soooo baaaad!

velovole said...

dear planchadora,

i love you!

i just came back from the worst tango practica i have ever been to. i feel as if i just came back from a WWF match. my arms are sore. my back aches. my toes are flattened out.

thank you for the hilarious blurb about sally's bubble pants, and how they are riding up to escape the rain.

you don't know much this post cheered me up!