The Tango Lesson

The Tango Lesson
Made in: UK, France, Argentina, Germany, Netherlands
Language: English, French, Spanish
Director: Sally Potter
Starring: Sally Potter, Pablo Veron, Fabian Salas, Gustavo Naveira, Carlos Copello
Year: 1997

Synopsis: Sally (Sally Potter) is a filmmaker who's having a challenging time on her latest script. With ambitions to make an art film about the fashion industry, she finds herself frustrated by simple-minded studio executives.

Deciding to take some time off, she travels to Paris and happens upon a tango show showcasing the world famous Pablo Veron (played by himself). Greatly intrigued, she gets a chance to meet him after the performance. As they get to talking, Sally offers Pablo a role in her next film in exchange for tango lessons.

Curiously, after just a few private lessons, an attraction develops between the two. But Sally's inability to let the man lead (in the dance) and Pablo's temperamental BS as an artist threatens their potential for success.

The Good: Many of the tango dance sequences are very well done. No doubt that Pablo Veron is an amazing dancer. Fabian Salas and Gustavo Naveira, both great tango dancers in their own right, are also very entertaining to watch. It's definitely a sight to see the three of them collaborate in several scenes.

The Bad: Unfortuntely, The Tango Lesson falls a bit short on many other fronts. The acting is pretty wooden, and much of the dialogue is stilted to the point where the story started feeling like a student film. 

Elements of the story itself strain the whole suspension of disbelief. It just doesn't seem likely that a world famous tango dancer such as Pablo Veron would suddenly fall in love with Sally.

For one thing, the on-screen chemistry isn't there. Also, Pablo's onscreen character (the flakey and annoyingly self-absorbed artist) doesn't seem like the kind of man that Sally would particularly find attractive, regardless of how good a dancer he is. 

Of course, much of the story is romantic fantasy. But these problems are so glaring that they adversely affect even the plausibility within the fantasy realm. 

Who would like this film: The Tango Lesson is a labor of love, and I can tell Sally Potter worked extremely hard to make a meaningful film. And to her credit, her own tango dancing isn't so bad. If you're a fan of Argentine Tango, then the dance sequences will definitely be of interest to you.

As a drama, the central themes of love, relationships, and life are relatable, but not all that remarkable in their presentation. And on many occasions, the film moves too slowly. The dance sequences are well filmed, but unfortunately Pablo Veron's charisma as a dancer doesn't translate well with respect to his acting.

(2 out of 4 stars)

Review written by: Joe Yang

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