Friday, 10 July 2009

Tango Fatal

A friend tells me she reads everything I write, unless it's about films. But this is a tango film...

A mysterious stranger wearing a white hat walks into a tango bar, full of beautiful women in fishnet stockings. There's a lot of dancing, but no po-faced stage tango, it's colourful, it's a fun film. A skilled dancer (Copello, who part-directs) dances with his favourite partner. The mysterious stranger invites her to dance, seduces her in dance. The skilled dancer attacks him... and is knifed. The stranger leaves. The stranger returns to dance again with the favourite partner... who knifes him. As he dies we discover he's a... but I wouldn't want to spoil the ending.

The dance includes social tango as well as theatrical numbers. The score is by Argentine-born Carlos Franzetti who, I discover, performs with well-known jazz musicians, writes for well-known film directors, and has also written operas, symphonies and concertos. The score includes straightforward tango as well as symphonic tango, with Nestor Marconi on bandoneon.

Franzetti talks in the 'Extras' about working with non-Argentine musicians. The subtitles say: 'It's very, very difficult to convey it to non-Argentine musicians. For instance, the double bass is played quite differently to the way it's played by symphonic musicians. It could take a whole year to teach this to a symphonic musician... It's said that tango is a way of walking through life. For me the most difficult popular music is tango because it doesn't have a constant vibe ('ritmo'). It doesn't have a constant rhythm like jazz, like Afro-Cuban music, like rock. The rhythm changes. It has rubatos, accelerandos, calderones, pauses.' (A 'rubato' is a slowing down. I'm not sure what 'calderones' are: says they are pilot whales, which doesn't sound quite right.)

The whole film is less than an hour, and the music carries it from start to finish, defines the characters, expresses the action, supports the dance. The film is just enough over-the-top; they had fun with all the cliches, and it's funny and a bit sad too.

“El tango es una manera de atravesar la vida.” Jorges Luis Borges.


Anonymous said...

This is also a great documentary about tango - the closest to real tango as it is danced in milongas that I've seen (not about the stage, more about the people who go to Confiteria Ideal, even showing them in the loos talking)

Shame the BBC won't put it out on DVD. You can get it on the internet by other means if your local laws allow.

Simba said...

How amusing that you enjoyed it, I found it to be total crap. :-)

Tango commuter said...

@ anonymous: I know that docu very well. I saw it when it was first shown and watched it again and again, and found out a huge amount from it. Although the dances, with the late Portalea and Pupi Castello, as well as with Geraldine and Javier and many others are often regrettably cut up with interview and other material, it's certainly a very useful overview of tango. There is a nine-minute clip here on YouTube.

@ Simba, most of what I wrote was about the music and, of that, most is from an interview in the 'Extras'. Total crap? Not if Nestor Marconi is playing! As for the rest of it, I didn't mind the dance too much, it's not robotic over-technical stage dance. As for the story I had reservations: try to make something fun and you can lose the real point. I think the original story was a bit more strange, complex and Latin American (think Marquez and Borges), and the film may have kept the outline but cut out the stranger side of it. But I'd rather watch Tango Salon again any day.

Simba said...

I think I would have to listen to the music without looking, then. The rest was just too disturbing. Bad script and photo, lousy acting, I didn't really like the dancing, I know Copello can do much better.

Very clichéd, and not in an elegant, playful manner if you ask me. It hurt my eyes ;-)

So happy it was finally over, I never watched the extras...

Trying to be a bit more constructive, what's the original story?