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Tango
Director Carlos Saura approaches movement with a painterly eye, composing breathtaking scenes that fix themselves like still lifes on the viewer's retina. His flamenco movies (the Carmen, Blood Wedding, and Love the Magician trilogy especially) were dramatic, passionate pictures, spilling over with the romantic entanglements and hotheaded duels that comprise their plot lines, but Saura summons an equal passion for craft -- dancing as well as filmmaking.

Saura's work stands out from other dance films, where the stories tend toward the melodramatic and the thrill of good dance too often fizzles. Like last year's Flamenco, a gorgeous collection of scenic tableaux shot in an old abandoned train station in Seville, Tango relies more on mood than action. Unlike Flamenco, which roved from room to room capturing myriad flamenco variations performed by hundreds of dancers and musicians, Tango, nominated for best foreign film this year, actually does contain a plot, albeit a thin one.

An aging director (Miguel €ngel Solà) sets out to make the ultimate Argentine tango film and writes his midlife crises into it as he goes. Emotions bubble over when he auditions the girlfriend of the gangster financing his movie. The girl is good, and when Miguel casts her in the lead, his ex-wife and the gangster grow jealous of the starring role she begins to assume in his professional and personal life. Though the movie unfolds slowly and the dialogue veers into melodrama, there is much to recommend Tango to non-dancers, particularly Italian cinematographer Vittorio Storaro (Apocalypse Now), who lavishes loving treatment on rehearsal scenes, with expert lighting and lush color.

-- Heather Wisner

Tango opens Friday, March 5, at the Embarcadero Center in S.F. and the Albany in Berkeley. See Showtime, Page 82, for screening times.

 
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