There are a lot of films with the word tango in the title: here are the very few that we recommend
Carlos Saura (1998)
Mario Suarez (Miguel Angel Sola), a middle aged director, has recently separated from Laura (Cecilia Narova). He embarks on a new project, a dance work about tango. Asked to audition the young Elena (Mia Maestro) by his mafioso backer, he chooses her for his leading lady and the two embark on a passionate affair.
The filming of Tango was for Carlos Saura the fulfillment of a desire of many years standing. For this film he turned once again to Oscar winning cinematographer Vittorio Storaro with whom he had worked on the documentary film Flamenco. The results are visually stunning.
Tangueros will be especially pleased to see Juan Carlos Copes given a leading role as Carlos Nebbia, the film's choreographer. Carlos Riverola also makes an appearance.
However, if we had thought that Saura was going to use tango as a medium to tell a story in the way he had done in his trilogy of films of flamenco we were to be disappointed. In this film there is no story. Returning from his research trip, Saura confessed in an interview that he had no ideas for a plot and so he had to resort to the device of using his own situation - a director who has run out of ideas - as the basis for the film. We are left with the impression of a director visually impressed by tango but with nothing actually to say about it.
I shan't go on about middle aged man having affairs with pretty young girls, but I will say that I would rather have seen much more of the powerful, strong Laura than the gamine Elena. A missed opportunity.
Visit the Sony Pictures website
Alternatively, by the DVD: boxed set of Carmen, Flamenco and Tango at Amazon UK for £27.97
The Tango Lesson
Sally Potter (1997)
Sally Potter's film is, in a nutshell, an autobiography of her own encounter with tango in which everyone plays themself. From a dancer's perspective the film deserves praise as the first film of modern times to attempt to show something of the real tango scene in Buenos Aires. There are some wonderful dance sequences, of which two in particular - both of them demonstrating Pablo Veron's genius - stand out: a terribly witty dance across parallel airport escalators, and Pablo's mad tap routine round his tiny Paris flat as he cooks Sally dinner. Of the other dancers in the film Carlos Gomez lives in the memory for his effortless, magnificent masculinity.
Superificially one could say that the film portrays a couple moving from conflict to resolution, all of this being expressed through dance. But the resolution feels more like a truce than a true drawing together. The tango the film portrays is not the tango of the embrace, but that of a fight, a collision - something the official publicity of the film aludes to directly in a quotation from Borges (who hated tango).
Having decided to make her own story and to cast herself, the real question about this film is whether it can involve us in Sally Potter's obsession. The answer depends on the viewer. As a dancer Sally Potter acquits herself honourably but is not of the same calibre as the men she partners; as an actress she is at times strangely wooden. Many women viewers have been so inspired by Sally's journey that they have been able to overlook these obvious flaws.
A thought provoking but flawed work.
Visit the Sony Pictures website
For a rather different view of the film, see Rick Barton's review for Gambit Weekly in New Orleans
Region 2 DVD: Amazon UK price: £7.97
Astor Piazzolla - In Portrait
BBC / Opus Arte
The man and his music with contributions by Daniel Barenboim, Yo-Yo Ma and Gary Burton.
This DVD contains an extended (106 minute) version of Mike Dibb's biographical documentary about Astor Piazzolla "Tango Maestro". It features a string of insightful interviews with important people from his personal and/or musical life, including his children, his second wife Laura, lover and singer Amelita Baltar, French accordeonist Richard Galliano, vibe man Gary Burton, several sidemen from Piazzolla's ensembles and many more. Strange to say, the maestro himself delivers his lines in the "Goodfellows" English that he learnt in New York's Little Italy in the twenties and thirties. The film does a good job of outlining Piazzolla's musical development and career and is graced by some rare footage. This includes several televised concert performances, including one with Amelita Baltar singing their smash hit "Balada para un loco."
A massive 54 minutes of worthwhile interview fragments that didn't make it to the film are included as a bonus, as is Piazzolla's last filmed performance with his sextet, in the Bristol BBC Studios in 1989. While this has long been available on audio CD, it's great to see the music being made. Another bonus is a recent performance - sans Piazzolla - of Milonga del Angel. All in all there is some three hours of fascinating material on this one DVD. A great package for any tango Piazzolla fan.
Piazzolla Forever (2004)
Richard Galliano Septet
This is the first concert film release of acclaimed performer Richard Galliano, featuring music from his Piazzola Forever CD, a tribute to the legendary Astor Piazzola.
I Don't Know What Your Eyes Have Done to Me
The true life mystery of tango legend Ada Falcón (2003)
Ada Falcón is one of the great legends of Argentine tango history. A great beauty with large green eyes, she became the lover of the bandleader Francisco Canaro. They made many great recordings together, most notably Canaro's vals "I Don't Know What Your Eyes Have Done to Me".
In 1942 Canaro's wife entered the recording studio where, in a break, Ada was sitting on Canaro's knee. Producing a gun from her handbag, she pointed it at Ada and threatened her. Falcón abandoned her lover and her career and retired to a Franciscan convent for the rest of her life.
The amazing thing about this DVD is this: the directors secured an interview with Ada. After 60 years of silence, she emerges to tell her story.