The Tango Lesson

Sally Potter, director of Orlando, made The Tango Lesson for an intelligent audience who can appreciate the subtleties of both film and dance. Why, then, does she treat that audience like a bunch of morons who require spoon-feeding? This hollow quasi-autobiographical film centers on Sally, a filmmaker, and her romance/unhealthy obsession with tango-dancer/instructor Pablo, played by Pablo Veron. Potter takes tango lessons from Veron, which leads to ever-increasing sexual tension and on-screen tangos, which, while sexy and fascinating at first, become repetitious and plodding as they increase in frequency. The Tango Lesson is beautifully shot in black and white, except for the film-within-a-film sequences in which Potter's character is scripting, as if to scream, "I have a vision and you should pay attention!" The idea that any filmmaker is a misunderstood visionary pitted against a vulgar Hollywood is a cliché to begin with, but coming from the film's semi-autobiographical viewpoint, it's particularly irksome and whiny. Also muddying the waters of enjoyability is Potter's acting: If you don't know French, the language she speaks for most of the film, she seems passable in the role. It's her hollow smile and the vacant look in her eyes that will probably make the viewer uncomfortably aware that she should have hired a real actor for the part she wrote for herself. By the way, the film within the film is so trite that it offers no respite from the trials of The Tango Lesson. The only winners here are fanatical dance enthusiasts, who will get their money's worth.

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