Tango – not just the fabled dance, but also the music that accompanies it – is alive and well in Buenos Aires, Argentina. In the third feature film from Argentinean director Mercedes García Guevara, the viewer enters the musical world of tango artists such as La Chicana, Fernando Otero, Las Muñecas and others. The film recounts tango’s transformation from the traditional songs of Carlos Gardel, through Astor Piazzolla’s rearticulating of the genre, to the hip current trends in tango today. The film also depicts the stunning beauty of this city that never sleeps – hypnotic Buenos Aires – and its nocturnal music aficionados.
Guevara captures the musicians in their day-to-day studio and practice sessions – even in front of their computers and music composition software – as well as their live stage performances in Buenos Aires. Backstage interviews with the musicians show their perspective on tango as not just orchestral dance music but “Argentina’s new rock’n roll” and give the documentary some additional color.
La Chicana’s performances were particularly moving. La Chicana is led by female vocalist Dolóres Sola, who performs sensual tango dance moves on stage while singing. Acho Estel’s guitar gives the band’s tunes additional strength.
The film also focuses on the tango dance itself, and we see a young couple who teach it to children. Also, the film features a provocative and sensual formal dance scene. Ivan Gierasinchuk’s photography is darkly lit, which creates an erotic, nocturnal feel throughout the film.
Overall, this documentary was both educational and entertaining. All too often musical documentaries are either too egotistical or filled with over-the-top performance sequences littered with animation graphics. Tango, A Strange Turn drew me into the story early with the use of archival photographs and charming film sequences of Buenos Aires in the 1930s and 40s. Both the music and the musicians featured portray an honest and passionate lifestyle dedicated to the revival of this often misunderstood genre, which is much more than just a dance.
The film premiered in May of 2004 at the Cannes Film Festival and has been screened at the 2004 Toulouse Latin America Film Festival and 2004 Latinbeat (New York City). Max Films International of Canada is the distributor.