The Tango Lesson

dir Sally Potter - The Tango Lesson, is an unapologetically postmodern delight, packed chock-full of fancy music and even fancier footwork; an unexpected, utterly magical moviegoing experience that redefines our accepted ideas about the cinematic limits of musical spectacle. Ever notice that the only kind of musicals that seem to get made into films any more are animated ones? According to popular logic, when a big-eyed cartoon gamine expresses her inner feelings by twirling around and breaking into song, that's a potential marketing goldmine - but when actual live human beings do it, it's time to call the paramedics. British filmmaker Sally Potter, however - best known for her whimsical 1993 screen adaptation of Virginia Woolf's Orlando -- has never been one to bow to the dictates of popular logic. The plot is elegant, almost rudimentary. A director (Potter), increasingly dissatisfied with her own work, is temporarily distracted from the failure of her latest screenplay when she meets an Argentinean tango dancer (Pablo Veron) living in Paris. If Pablo can make Sally a tango dancer, Sally will make Pablo the star of her next movie. But because both are so instinctually used to leading rather than following, the idea of placing themselves under anyone else's power - even in order to achieve what they think they want - leads to an intoxicating clash of wills: a mutual learning experience that eventually extends to embrace every possible permutation of the relationship between teacher and student - or man and woman. According to Potter, the real "star" of The Tango Lesson soon became neither herself or Veron, but the struggle between dominance and surrender making up the heart of the dance itself. Tango is neither frothy nor pretty. It's more like a wrestling match set to music: dark and deep, gritty and complex, capable of expressing all emotions... and not just the nice ones, either. It's magic. (UK/France/Argentina 1997) 102 min. PG

Pic of reels

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