on 14 October 2013
This film is a dance movie, but not like any I have seen before. It tells the story of a woman, played by Sally Potter, of a filmmaker who learns to dance tango. There are additional elements such as her on-off relationship with the other main character, Pablo, so that brought the characters to life. The film seemed remarkably personal, like a documentary of Sally's real life. This made it more believable.
I just started learning to dance tango when I came across this movie, so bought it on a whim. I am so very glad that I did. This is definitely a film to keep and watch again. The characters are so real, storyline is believable and the dancing is fantastic! Although the dance sequences are mesmerizing, this is not going to teach you to tango dance. For that I would suggest one of the instruction videos available on Amazon. I would highly recommend this film if you like watching tango dancing and you like a good story.
on 20 August 2003
I saw The Tango Lesson and found it a genuine work of Art. I recommend those who love good movies to watch this one.
The Tango Lesson perhaps has a weak plot, but a film director isn't necessarily a story teller. The spiraling meta-narration which takes place in The Tango Lesson certainly makes this movie an advanced art product, which has nothing to do with the telling of actual occurrences, but rather focuses on the developing of Art itself in the mind and life of an artist, while touching on a series of parallel topics.
Some may interpret this film as an "empty exercise in self-indulgence," but personally, I find this approach misleading, especially in the age of the "Self." We're talking Art here, and Sally Potter is the artist. Herself: no one else should be the starting point and center of her own movie. The lady knows how to direct, act, dance and sing: why shouldn't she do all of the above? I think she deserves much admiration: she's a well rounded artist, and there aren't many! Besides, as I've said already, to me the film is about Art, Life and the relations between the two - e.g. the tango as a representation of the male/female social "role playing" - before anything else: the director uses her own experience and many skills to make a point and to get things done exactly how she wants them, but the movie isn't "about" Sally Potter. In my opinion, the fact this film allows us to peek into the director's head, and see Art through her eyes (I can assure it's quite a sight!), is one of its strong points, not one of its faults.
The apparent conflict between two Art forms (dance and cinema) - which, in my opinion, is one of the themes developed in this film - on the one hand highlights the difficulty which people are confronted with when having to understand and recognize as worthy something they're not familiar with, the need to change perspective and see or feel Art, rather than simply discharge whatever they don't understand as an inferior form of artistic creation, and on the other shows that in the end the similarities between the Arts are greater and more profound than the differences: "Perhaps all along Jacob had simply been wrestling with himself..." Difficulties spring up when the desire to lead doesn't allow one to ever follow, when the need to be looked at won't let one see. Changing perspective for a minute, and letting someone else lead the game, can be enough to prove the Arts are really only different ways of signifying the same thing. Art is Art: the creation - by means of self-discipline, abstraction, and finally inspiration - of something beautiful and fertile, that touches and gives life to the human heart, that makes us feel less beastly, something morally edifying as a consequence of the Beauty it surrounds us with. The lesson to be learned from this, I think, is that respect and the willingness to follow can open the door to the understanding of Art as well as of others.
Far from being a mere celebration of the director, in my opinion this movie also deals with a lot more than just the tango. To me, this movie is about self-control, discipline and abstraction. And through abstraction, it's about the strength deriving from calmness, the quickness only slowness can assure, the music only silence can give birth to. It's about the "Reasoning Power" we - as human beings - are provided with: the sixth sense which allows us to pierce the surface of things and find Beauty, Perfection. To Reason means to See, find some kind of Truth and therefore free our shadowed consciences. What this means to me is that having an "aesthetic" approach to life doesn't imply being "superficially appreciative of appearances," but that, on the contrary, it can be a key to spirituality.
Even in experiencing love, it seems to me that Sally tries to uplift its irrational essence to Art's state of perfection and balance. Passion seeps through Sally's "high need for cognition," becoming something intelligible, that "makes sense." The human faculty of loving has to cooperate in fulfilling "destiny," rather than in letting "case" follow its course. Love, being life's natural vehicle of energy and therefore of creative powers, is looked at as something fundamental, but only as it is heightened to the status of a work of Art... So life is used as the indispensable platform for artistic take-off. But from the very beginning, what Sally does - both in the movie and in directing it - is exert her will and strength, constantly struggle to reach perfection. Inspiration is found neither through self-indulgence nor through love's bliss and oblivion, but through concentration and finally abstraction. In this sense, The Tango Lesson is a religious movie, an exercise in the metaphysics of Art.
Now to the point
The editing has character, it's intelligent, original, definitely not a Hollywood product.
The photography is breathtaking - and eloquent: it says "The Tango Lesson is about Aesthetics, Beauty itself."
The acting is honest, fresh, and charming. In my opinion, the acting is superb: Sally Potter really knows what measure and elegance are.
The soundtrack is exquisite. The tango pieces are great, and so is the leitmotiv of the movie: the seagull-like cry in the airport scene ("Doyna") tears my heart out every time I listen to it (it's also the one track that made me decide to buy the CD).
This film, someone said, has little to offer the general public. I'm afraid this might be accurate. Or rather, "the general public" - that, for the most part, is fed upon fast-food movies - probably has neither the adequate means nor the desire to tackle this art-movie, which I don't believe was meant to give easy answers to difficult questions (like so many other films) but to make people think. Nonetheless, seeing this movie made me realize all over again that it's definitely worth trying.