Tango provides a happy intersection of the never-waning craze for the intense, erotic Argentinean dance-and-music art form and venerable Spanish writer-director Carlos Saura's penchant for performance films featuring song and dance (Blood Wedding, Carmen).
His most recent entry in this genre was Flamenco, beautifully shot by Vittorio Storaro (most famed for his work with Bernardo Bertolucci, including Last Tango in Paris), whose exquisitely fluid and inventive cinematography here makes the film of interest even to those not attracted to dance pictures in general or the tango specifically. Tango's lure proved strong enough to snare an Academy Award nomination for best foreign film.
Unlike Flamenco, a wordless nonnarrative, the dance sequences of Tango are presented as rehearsals and completed numbers for a film within a film, enclosed in a mildly Brechtian story of a Buenos Aires director whose wife has recently left him and who falls in love with the girlfriend of the gangster who is bankrolling the tango film the director is creating. (Both women are extraordinarily beautiful dancers who perform in his film.)
The "real" story is ultimately just a cardboard wrapping for the much more expressive dance numbers, which include political parables of immigration and torture. The most glamorous dances, however, feature same-sex tangos: men with men, costumed in severe black and white, and a lesbian fantasy that slyly references Storaro's work on The Conformist.
The dancing is superb, and Lalo Schifrin not only honored famous tangos in his score but also composed new ones for the occasion. (It's definitely see-the-movie, buy-the-soundtrack time.) And there are enough shots of flashing feet shod in tight black leather to satisfy the most demanding fetishist.
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Directed by Carlos Saura. With Miguel Sola, Cecilia Narova, Mia Maestro and Julio Bocca.