You Know When You’ve Been …

The Tango Lesson (Sally Potter, 1997)

My memory is that this got rather sniffy reviews when it came out, and I am both sorry and glad it took so long for me to get round to it.

Sally (Sally Potter) is struggling to write the script for Rage — the name of the film she released in 2009 — and her minimalist flat is falling apart. She picks two solutions — send for Heathcote Williams to renovate and decide to take up tango.

She finds Pablo (Pablo Verón) to teach her, and they grow ever closer, perhaps falling in love with her. Sally must learn that it is the man who leads in the tango. Pablo must learn that it is the director who leads, especially if he wants to be in the film she is seducing him into. Paris appears in stunning black and white, as does Argentina (and even London and Hollywood, although I suspect that’s not where the swimming pool is), whilst Rage bursts in with glorious Technicolor.

There is remarkable editing — especially for the dance sequences — and the woman sure can dance. She must have been in her late forties when she filmed herself.

In a late scene there is Eugene Delacroix’s fresco The Battle of Jacob with the Angel, and much is made of Pablo and Sally being Jewish. Potter, apparently, isn’t Jewish. Does this mark a distinction in director/character? Or a lie Sally tells to seduce him?

This easily could have been self-indulgent, as some of her later work feels, but somehow this sails above that.

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