A frustratingly not-terrible action thriller.
“The Tango Lesson” is a fictional film in which almost everything and everybody seems to be, in some sense, real. It's about a British film director named Sally, who is played by the British film director Sally Potter. She meets a great tango dancer named Pablo, who is played by the great tango dancer Pablo Veron. She says that if he gives her tango lessons, she will put him in a movie. She has put him in this movie. Since she is pretty damn fine at dancing the tango, she must have had some lessons somewhere.
For her pains in telling this story, Potter has been slapped down by several critics. How dare she, a middle-aged woman, star herself in a love story where she falls in love with a tango dancer--and, even worse, is good enough to dance as his partner? This is “blatant narcissism” (Britain's Empire magazine) and “an act of wild hubris” (the New York Times). “Talk about self-indulgence!” says a critic on the Internet.
Political correctness is not my favorite pose, and so I will not go into detail about the countless movies in which middle-age (and, indeed, elderly) men seduce 22-year-old models and jump out of airplanes while throwing bombs. I will note that Sally Potter really does dance the tango in this film; it's not a stunt woman or special effects. My theory is, if you've got it, flaunt it.
She also does other things very well. One of them is to delicately examine the tension between a man and a woman who are not really sexually destined for each other, but go through a mad moment of thinking they are--simply because they have idealized each other. If power is the ultimate aphrodisiac, then what could be sexier than the power you yourself have granted to another person, by mentally supplying them with those qualities you find most dazzling? Sally and Pablo have “no chemistry,” I read, and are “passionless.” These are words that could only have been written by critics whose own ideas of passion are limited to the narrow range of testosterone emissions seen in most movies. The typical movie love story is about characters so young that proximity triggers tumescence. “The Tango Lesson” is not intended as a story about romantic passion achieved, but about passion sighted in the near distance, considered, flirted with and regretfully declined. “We should set some limits,” Sally tells Pablo after he stands her up on New Year's Eve. “It's better to sublimate our relationship in our work.” Those are words you will not hear for many years between Tom and Nicole, Matt and Minnie, Will and Jada, or Johnny and Kate.