Tango

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Tango

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Carlos Saura's Tango delivers exactly what its title suggests, and nothing more. A series of vibrant, technically accomplished performance sequences pieced together by the flimsiest exercise in All That Jazz-style meta-cinema this side of All That Jazz, Tango explores the torment of creative bankruptcy with all too much verisimilitude. Miguel Ángel Sola plays Saura's surrogate, an aging film director and choreographer whose efforts to stage a new production on tango are met with romantic and artistic complications. Recently separated from his dancer wife (Mia Maestro), Sola immerses himself in the project, an ambitious attempt to express Argentina's turbulent history through the evolution of the dance form. His passion leads to a dangerous affair with another dancer (Cecilia Narova), who happens to be the mistress of the gangster bankrolling the musical. This sounds like a perfectly reasonable setup for a good old-fashioned backstage melodrama, but Saura seems bored by his own story. The most electrifying sequence in Tango, an emotionally charged duet between Maestro and Narova, shows what the film might have been had it more fully integrated the plot with the dance, like Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger's The Red Shoes or Tales Of Hoffmann. Saura's cast and crew were certainly up for the challenge: Set to Lalo Schifrin's evocative score, the dancers' precise, formally elegant tango footwork is complemented by the equally balletic cinematography of Vittorio Storaro (Apocalypse Now, The Last Emperor), whose camera glides through mirrors, screens, and brightly colored filters and backdrops. Tango opens with a director not knowing where to go with his shooting script; in the same situation, Saura would have been better off tossing his out altogether.

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