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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 4 May 2014
The positives first - some great music, especially Yo Yo Ma, some great dancing sequences, and some beautifully and aristically shot scenes . Almost entirely shot in black and white, the visuals are stunning, although the brief breaks to the colour scenes of Sally Potter's imaginative wanderings seem entirely superflous.

This is full on art house cinema, in which art comes way ahead of story or characterisation. For lovers of the tango, or students of cinematography, there is something worth watching, although the story line is weak and unbelievable and the acting worse.

Avoid unless you love very arty films and/or the tango filmed in black and white
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on 18 November 2011
I saw this years ago and bought it recently. It's a joy to watch the exhibition of dancing - it's a crap story, but Tango lovers won't care about that.
By the way, my copy from Amazon is in Dutch (but who needs to understand the dialogue).
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on 16 June 2000
This film is definately worth watching. It has a wonderful mood, great energy and intensity. It is a clever chronicle of a woman filmaker's process of creating. It is also a stylish love story, brimming with creativity. The dance sequences are breath taking and the music is top quality; together they highlight all the power struggles and antagonisms expressed within the script. This is a multilayered, moody and intelligent film which takes you on board a journey you never, ever want to leave...enjoy!
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on 23 August 2005
What a marvellous film. Sally Potter captures the vitality, eroticism and sensuality of the tango so vividly in her film 'The Tango Lesson.'I liked the way Sally Potter portrayed her own love affair and fascination with the tango by starring in the film herself. You could feel her being changed as a person by the passion and electricity of this dance throughout the film and therefore see the magical effect that dance in any form can have upon the individual.
The romantic nature of the tango was depicted quite well with Sally falling in love with her tutor Pablo(Internationally acclaimed tango dancer Pablo Veron). I felt so estatic and alive when I watched the scene where Sally and Pablo were dancing the tango by the riverside in Paris on a winter's evening and it snowed shortly afterwards. It was one of those moments in film that are so special it lives on in your memory forever. I love the tango and Sally Potter's film is a wonderful tribute to this spectacular dance. For anyone who wants to see a good dance film about the tango I highly recommend this film.
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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.
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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.
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on 9 June 2001
The first thing that struck me was the visual patterns - cool, spare, and smooth, but then a burst of rhythm, echoing the visual impact of the tango. Every hint in the plot or dialogue of the mental and emotional state of the main character was reinforced by the images (for example, the shot down onto the precisely aligned blank white paper on the the blank white table). Emotionally it was very satisfying: uplifting with nothing sickly or cloying, and a final surge of music and dance which went onwards forever into the future.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 14 January 2013
As somebody who has been going to Tango classes for a few weeks, I was really looking forward to this film. I wanted to like it but overall was disappointed by its OTT caricatures (I can't bring myself to call them 'characters') plus dialogue & situations so unrealistic that they crossed into the surreal. Yes the dance sequences were great but the script & acting dragged it down.

Playing a fictionalised version of herself, Potter is a film director who discovers Tango. After just a few weeks' worth of classes, she inexplicably becomes so good that her teacher, Pablo, asks her to star in a show with him - could only happen in the movies... Anyway, she starts to make a movie about him & they quickly become romantically entangled, following an absurd encounter: They chat in a cafe; she says 'I think of myself as Jewish', he replies, 'I'm Jewish too'; their fingers touch; tears run down just one of her cheeks & then tears run down just one of his. Convincing this ain't. Frankly, I think it's no coincidence that a lot of the 4-star & 5-star reviews say they bought imported copies which didn't have English dialogue or subtitles.

This film is purely Potters' undiluted wish fulfillment, converted directly into celluloid & unfiltered by boring things like reality. After all, why else would she cast herself like a fleet-footed Larry David & then sing at the end? Why else would the producers in the movie show the slightest interest in her uncommercial 'latest project', which consists of a man with no legs having a gunfight with models in period costume? And that's exactly the problem. This idealised version of life, so OTT as to even seem ridiculous in a movie, goes against with what tango represents. Tango tracks don't sing of fulfilled wishes & idyllic love, they lament the joyful agony of sordid relationships, unhealthy obsessions, broken hearts which strive to remain alone but are inevitably dragged back into the fray; love contaminated by real life. Yet in Potter's world, reality is not permitted to intrude. At my most charitable, I wonder if she merely accepted that neither her nor Pablo were actors, so figured that plausibility would never be on the cards & thus she may as well go for an all-out weirdfest.

But - and it's a BIG 'but' - the dance scenes are amazing. Despite restricting themselves to tango moves only, there is plenty of variety, emphasised by equally dramatic cinematography. Potter can actually dance very well - not as well as a pro, admittedly, but to a respectable standard for a film. And there was also much in her portrayal of the tango scene which rang familiar bells. However, even this was not enough to keep my interest - I switched off halfway through & it wasn't until a couple of months later that I could bring myself to watch it through to the end.

The combination of black-&-white with lucid moments of colour & allegorical weirdness brings to mind If...., that unashamed product of the '60's. I guess if you're into all-out arthouse, then you may like this film. Just be warned that's its a lot more 'out there' than may be expected at first glance. Otherwise, I'd recommend fast-forwarding to the dance scenes.

People will love this film just because it's Tango. But Tango deserves a better big-screen presence than this.
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on 16 October 2010
The Tango Lesson is for Argentine tango lovers only and even then, only if they fast forward throught he boring bits. (There are many...many...many). I thought Sally Potter had an uninteresting method of acting with close ups of an expressionless face. There were many great dancers int his film but they all seemed to be pushed aside to allow the her to take up the screen. Don't spend money on this.
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on 15 April 2011
this is a really great film, a good addition to any movie library!
I've watched it several times and each time I notice new small details. A really well considered, quality and timeless film. It hasn't aged at all and the switch between colour & black & white is really affective.

The only downside is that my disc didnt offer subtitles, so unless you speak French you have to rely on the context to understand whats going on - that said, it's pretty clear and the dance scenes need no explanation!
totally enjoyable and suitable for everyone.
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