Tango the Night Away — At the Movies, Post-Valentines Week
No vampires or even zombies this time, but with Valentines Day still less than a week past, two films about romantic (sort of) dancing caught my attention. Both are worth seeing, especially the first, the almost absurdist by the end of it VALENTINA’S TANGO — at least in my opinion.
Eddie, who wants to become a priest, says, “My father is dying, I’ve just learned my mother is a nymphomaniac, and I’ve given her an orgasm.” (I’m quoting from memory, but words to that effect.) Eddie’s brother Victor, whose aspirations are to make good in local organized crime, wants to marry a girl named Tina who puts up with him because it’s an excuse to hang around Eddie who she really loves. Valentina, Eddie and Victor’s mom (not to be confused with Tina the girlfriend — pop’s name, incidentally, is Eduardo), is indeed what Eddie has just said, and moreover “gets off” fairly easily, notably when she’s dancing the tango. She and pop, originally from South America, own a Los Angeles dance club where they also perform exhibition dancing. They’re very good.
This is a family that has denial problems. And add one more element, Victor’s old girlfriend who doesn’t dump well, and what we have is VALENTINA’S TANGO, a film that’s both tragic and wildly comic, albeit running a bit toward confusion toward the end as we start to view events through the eyes of increasingly unreliable narrators. One, in fact, ends up in a mental hospital — but others end up dead — and perhaps the nuttiest of them all continues on as a sardonic ghost (well, in a sense anyway). Then add to that some great dance sequences (in my admittedly untutored opinion — others have complained that the dancing isn’t true Argentine style, but then the principals aren’t necessarily Argentinean either, identified only as from “South America”) along with good music. I liked it myself as a movie that’s both realistic in a gritty, demimondainian sort of way, and surrealistic.
And don’t even ask about Hugo, the plastic bathtub duck.
The night after I watched this, I made a point to rewatch ASSASSINATION TANGO, a different sort of film but one also combining a true love of dance with a background of gritty lethality. Here a hired hit man enjoys dancing as a family style leisure activity and, on a politically charged mission to Argentina takes advantage of unplanned for delays to brush up on the real spirit of the tango. Weird, and not as much fun as VALENTINA’S TANGO (or as tragic either, rather it’s presented with a colder, get the job done sort of feeling), but partner enough that the two are now on the shelf together.
Then for a final two words re. VALENTINA’S TANGO there’s Valentina herself, played by Guillermina Quiroga who also served as the film’s choreographer: muy exquisita.