This is Sally Potter’s first-person account of her tango obsession. We’re escorted through London, Paris and Buenos Aires as she seeks the perfect teacher and finds him in the intriguing and erratic Pablo Verón (also playing himself). Sally and Pablo quarrel (tiresomely) in an alluring patois of English, Spanish, and French.
But as dancers they give you goose bumps. Verón is remarkable — all energy and charisma. Potter (who made “Orlando”) is less intense, but that’s fine. Tango is this film’s universal language. The dance surpasses the verbal and becomes a metaphor for self-expression and passion. They dance under the bridges of the Seine, in streets and in empty dance halls. They’re a show unto themselves.
Shot in black and white, the cinematography is exceptional. Above all, Potter gets to the essence of the tango: absolute elegance and ineluctable melancholy. The movie weakens only when Sally — in a subplot — takes us through a screenplay she’s writing about murdered models. But every filmmaker is entitled to stumble. No stumbling when it comes to music. Astor Piazzolla, Hugo Díaz and Carlos Gardel anchor a soundtrack that’s homage to the tango and milonga: beauty, passion, jealousy, suffering, and tears.