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The Tango Lesson(1997)
Uninspired by her latest screenplay, a murder mystery set in the world of high fashion, female director Sally places herself under the tutelage of Pablo, an Argentinean tango dancer living in Paris. As her lessons proceed, Sally and Pablo forge a deep and sensual bond, one which is complicated after they strike a bargain: if he will train her to be an expert tango dancer, she will feature him in her next film.
For more about The Tango Lesson and the The Tango Lesson Blu-ray release, see the The Tango Lesson Blu-ray Review published by Dr. Svet Atanasov on November 29, 2012 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.0 out of 5.
Starring: Sally Potter, Morgane Maugran, Pablo Verón, Simon Worgan
Director: Sally Potter
» See full cast & crew
The Tango Lesson Blu-ray Review
Reviewed by Dr. Svet Atanasov, November 29, 2012
Sally Potter's "The Tango Lesson" (1997) arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Artificial Eye. The supplemental features on the disc include a collection of screen tests with Sally Potter and Pablo Veron; footage from a tango performance in Amsterdam; short making of featurette from Charles de Gaulle airport; and a music video featuring renowned cellist Yo-Yo Ma. In English, French, and Spanish, with optional English subtitles for the main feature. Region-B "locked".
Sally Potter plays a lonely film director who has a difficult time concentrating on her latest project - an unusual thriller about a crippled man killing beautiful models. Hoping to regain her rhythm, she travels to Paris, where she meets Pablo (Pablo Veron, Assassination Tango), a handsome and single tango dancer. Mesmerized by the way he moves and looks at other women, Sally approaches him and asks if he would be willing to teach her how to dance. Even though Pablo has a busy schedule, he agrees, and Sally begins spending time with him.
Soon after, Sally falls in love with Pablo. For a while everything seems fine, but then disagreements between the two lovers change the way they dance. Pablo insists that Sally, who still isn't as good as he is, makes it difficult for him to express himself on the stage. This hurts Sally tremendously because she has been trying her best to follow Pablo, on and off the stage.
Then things between the two lovers get better and Sally even receives an invitation to meet a group of American producers interested in her project. She travels to America and meets them but quickly realizes that the type of film they want isn't like the one she is working on.
Feeling energized after her negotiations with the producers, Sally returns to Paris and resumes her tango lessons with Pablo. This time the chemistry between the two is much better. More time passes by and during a trip to Buenos Aires Sally and Pablo decide to make their relationship official.
There are a lot of reasons why one should like Sally Potter's The Tango Lesson. One of them has to do with the fact that the British director dances surprisingly well. It is impossible to guess how much time she must have spent practicing, but some of the final sessions she has with Pablo Veron are very impressive. It takes a lot of courage to do what she does in front of the camera.
Then there is the music. Sally Potter collaborated with Fred Frith (Richard Linklater's Before Sunrise, Philip Groning's L'amour) on a soundtrack that borrows a lot from the one the director did for Orlando. The music is soft and incredibly relaxing, blending ambient tunes with various tango arrangements (including a beautiful solo performed by Yo-Yo Ma). At times it feels like it is a lot more important than the visuals.
The plot is something of a confession, or a beautiful dream. It all might have happened, maybe not. It is hard to tell. But it is Sally Potter playing Sally Potter, this much is obvious. Along the way the film also produces some interesting observations about the roles men and women have in real life, and how a strong relationship could be like a beautiful tango dance – the partners must know their strengths and weaknesses and trust each other.
The decision to shoot the overwhelming majority of the film in black and white is a good one. The images - courtesy of the great cinematographer Robby Muller (Wim Wenders' Paris, Texas, Barbet Schroeder's Barfly) - are beautiful to look at, but it is easy to focus on the two lovers and their constantly evolving relationship. The flashbacks from the script, all of which boasts bright colors, look like something the mind of Leos Carax would have produced – surreal and quite bizarre.
Note: In 1998, The Tango Lesson won American Choreography Award for Outstanding Achievement in Feature Film (Pablo Verón).
The Tango Lesson Blu-ray, Video Quality
Presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1, encoded with MPEG-4 AVC and granted a 1080p transfer, Sally Potter's The Tango Lesson arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of British distributors Artificial Eye.
The high-definition transfer used for this release is very good. Detail is pleasing throughout the entire film, while contrast levels remain stable. Despite the fact that the film has an intended documentary look, most close-ups also convey very pleasing depth. Color reproduction is convincing - during the flashbacks, the reds, greens, and blues look stable and well saturated; the black and white footage conveys pleasing depth and there are no signs of boosting. Generally speaking, grain is well resolved, though some extremely light noise is occasionally mixed with it. There are no traces of excessive sharpening corrections. Compression is good, but there is some room for improvement (see screencapture #19). Purely transfer specific anomalies do not overwhelm the high-definition transfer. To sum it all up, thought not flawless The Tango Lesson looks very good, at times even impressive in high-definition. Fans of the film should be pleased with the presentation. (Note: This is a Region-B "locked" Blu-ray disc. Therefore, you must have a native Region-B or Region-Free PS3 or SA in order to access its content).
The Tango Lesson Blu-ray, Audio Quality
There are two standard audio tracks on this Blu-ray disc: English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 and English LPCM 2.0. (with large portions of Spanish and French). For the record, Artificial Eye have provided optional English subtitles for the main feature. They appear only when Spanish or French are spoken.
The English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 opens up the film very well. Similar to Orlando, The Tango Lesson is complimented by a lush ambient soundtrack that gives the film quite an edge. Obviously, the tango music also adds an extra dose of exotic flavor. Dynamic movement is very good, though you should not expect aggressive sound and impressive surround effects. What impresses here is the fluidity. There are no pops, cracks, audio dropouts or distortions to report in this review.
The Tango Lesson Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
The Tango Lesson Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
It is easy to tell that The Tango Lesson was a very personal project for director Sally Potter. It is quite beautiful to look at and the music used throughout the film is outstanding. I dare say that it also has a type of elegance which perhaps only a female director could have given it. Indeed, The Tango Lesson could be the perfect film to see with someone special on a rainy Sunday afternoon. RECOMMENDED.
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