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Tango Movies

Tango Movies: the following are movies with significant tango content.

The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (1921)

The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse Director: Rex Ingram, Kevin Brownlow
Starring: Pomeroy Cannon, Josef Swickard, Bridgetta Clark, Rudolph Valentino
Points of interest: silent movie; sixth best grossing silent film of all time; turned Rudolph Valentino into a super star and gave him the image of the 'Latin Lover'
Tango connection: a harsh Argentine landowner has a grandson Julio whom he often takes to seedy dives in Buenos Aires. It is in one of these bars that we see the movie's famous tango scene: a couple are dancing the tango, Julio strides up and asks to cut in. After being brushed off, Julio challenges the man and strikes him. Jiulio and the woman then dance dramatic tango, and the crowd cheers. After the dance, the woman sits on Julio's lap.

Tango Bar (1935)

Tango Bar Director: John Reinhardt
Starring: Carlos Gardel, Rosita Moreno, Colette D'Arville
Points of interest: musical; Gardel's final feature (he was killed in a plane crash after this film)
Tango connection: A young cabaret vocalist (Carlos Gardel) falls in love with a beautiful dancer (Rosita Moreno) and saves her from a gang of crooks.

Adiós Buenos Aires (1938)

Director: Leopoldo Torres Ríos
Starring: Tito Lusiardo, Amelia Bence
Points of interest: Spanish musical
Tango connection: the entire film is a musical based around tango.

Last Tango in Paris (1972)

Last Tango in Paris Director: Bernardo Bertolucci
Starring: Marlon Brando, Maria Schneider
Points of interest: the film was given an X rating by the MPAA upon initial release, but was re-classified as an NC-17 in 1997. MGM released an R-rated cut in 1981. The idea grew from Bernardo Bertolucci's sexual fantasies, stating 'he once dreamed of seeing a beautiful nameless woman on the street and having sex with her without ever knowing who she was.' Also as with previous films, Brando refused to memorize his lines for many scenes and instead posted his line on cards around the set.
Tango connection: this films tells the story of an American widower who is drawn into a sexual relationship with a soon-to-be-married Parisian woman. The woman is taken to a tango bar and she begins telling her about himself.

Never Say Never Again (1983)

Never Say Never Aagain Director: Irvin Kershner
Starring: Sean Connery, Kim Basinger, Rowan Atkinson
Points of interest: this is remake of the 1965 James Bond film Thunderball. Never Say Never Again is the seventh and final time Connery played Bond on screen. The title is derived from a conversation between Sean Connery and his second wife (Micheline Roquebrune), after he press conference in which he said that he would 'never' play James Bond again. Roquebrune told him later to 'never say never again'.
Tango connection: James Bond (Sean Connery) is challenged to a video game to pit his skills against Maximillion Largo, a Spectre Agent. Bond wins an obscene amount of money, but tells Largo that he would accept, in lieu of the money, 'one dance with Domino'. Bond and Domino (Kim Basinger) then dance a tango, during which Bond informs her that her boyfriend Largo has in fact killed her brother; they have to keep dancing so that they don't alert Largo to the content of their conversation.

El Exilio de Gardel - Tangos (1986)

El Exilio de Gardel Director: Fernando Solanas
Starring: Marie Laforêt, Miguel Ángel Solá, Philippe Léotard
Points of interest: Gardel was never historically exiled from Argentina, which provides a skewed perspective to the film. Music was by Ástor Piazzolla, José Luis Castiñeira de Dios and Fernando Solanas. It was Argentina's official selection for the 1986 Oscar Awards, Foreign Language film category. It won awards in 1985, Gran Premio Speciale - Venice Film Festival; 1985, Gran Coral (First Prize) - Havana Film Festival; 1986, César Award, France (best music); and 1987, Cóndor de Plata - Argentine Film Critics Association.
Tango connection: A group of Argentinians living in sad exile in Paris look for some connection to their culture - and decide to stage a tango musical as a tribute to the legendary Argentinian tango star Carlos Gardel. The film has dual themes: the beautiful dance rehearsals, contrasted against the musicians' under-privileged lives, unemployment, inability to communicate with loved ones in Argentina and low-rent accommodation.

The Tango Bar (1988)

The Tango Bar Director: Marcos Zúriñaga
Starring: Raul Julia, Valeria Lynch, Ruben Juarez
Points of interest: this whole film is around the world of tango. Spanish with English subtitles. It is almost an excuse to show many clips from the history of tango.
Tango connection: a romantic triangle between a tango dancer who leaves Argentina during a time of political unrest, his former partner, and his wife, who both stay behind. They are reunited after years of separation. Gives the viewer a detailed vision of the historical and cultural significance of the tango.

Naked Tango (1990)

Naked Tango Director: Leonard Schrader
Starring: Vincent D'Onofrio, Mathilda May, Esai Morales, Fernando Rey, Cipe Lincovski, Josh Mostel, Constance McCashin
Points of interest: this film is considered by many as 'classic pure trash' in the great tradition of trashy cult movies.
Tango connection: Returning by ship to South America, a young girl escapes her elderly husband by swapping places with a girl committing suicide. She believes her new life will be that of an arranged marriage but finds it is in fact a trick to get her working in a brothel. For anyone who knows the tango, this film's expressionist atmosphere, fantastic sets, the wonderful locations in Buenos Aires, over-the-top tango dancers and great tango music come together to make this interesting viewing. Naked Tango has achieved cult status for tango dancers.

Scent of a Woman (1992)

Scent of a Woman Director: Martin Brest
Starring: Al Pacino, Chris O'Donnell, James Rebhorn, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Gabrielle Anwar
Points of interest: won an Academy Award for Best Actor, and nominated for Best Director, Best Picture and Best Adapted Screenplay.It won the following Golden Globe Awards: Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Actor and Best Motion Picture - Drama.
Tango connection: the story of the film is of a preparatory school student who takes a job as an assistant to an irascible, blind, medically retired Army officer (Al Pacino). He tangos with a beautiful woman who captivates him with her perfume. It’s not a perfect dance but it illustrates an important fact expressed by a writer: the tango is the dance of uneducated, unseeing instinct: its nexus is lust: its animation is sexual.

Strictly Ballroom (1992)

Strictly Ballroom Director: Baz Luhrmann
Starring: Paul Mercurio, Tara Morice, Bill Hunter, Gia Carides, Barry Otto, Peter Whitford, Pat Thomson
Points of interest: based on a stage play of the same name. It won the 'Award of the Youth' at the 1992 Cannes Film Festival in the Un Certain Regard section.
Tango connection: the story of an Australian top ballroom dancer - whose steps are not strictly ballroom - pairing up with a plain, left-footed local girl when his maverick style earns him the disdain of his more conventionally-minded colleagues. Together, the team gives it their all and makes dreams of the National Championship title come true. In the film tango was represented in its stylized ballroom version only - in its over-the-top melodrama version.

True Lies (1994)

True Lies Director: James Cameron
Starring: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jamie Lee Curtis, Tom Arnold, Bill Paxton, Tia Carrere, Charlton Heston, Art Malik, Eliza Dushku
Points of interest: It is an extended remake of the 1991 French film La Totale. Upon its release, True Lies was the most expensive movie ever made (not adjusted for inflation), costing anywhere from $110 to $120 million. It was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Visual Effects and it won a Golden Globe for Curtis's comedic portrayal of Helen Tasker.
Tango connection: the story of a boring computer salesman Harry (Arnold Schwarzenegger) who does nothing all day. That's what his wife, Helen (Jamie Lee Curtis), thinks. What she doesn't know is her husband is really an international spy. When he learns of his wife's supposed extra-marital affair, he pursues using his intelligence resources. In the film, there are two tango scene - one with Harry dancing with his Helen, and another Harry dancing with the antique dealer Juno Skinner (Tia Carrere) whom he thinks has ties to a terrorist.

Evita (1996)

Evita Director: Alan Parker
Starring: Madonna, Antonio Banderas, Jonathan Pryce
Points of interest: It is adaptation of Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber's musical based on the life of Eva Perón. Several people objected to Madonna playing the part (Cher, Barbra Streisand, Glenn Close, Olivia Newton-John and Michelle Pfeiffer were rumored to be involved). Midway through production, Madonna discovered she was pregnant. This film won multiple awards (including Academy Award for Best Original Song 'You Must Love Me', Golden Globe Award for Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy, Golden Globe Award for Best Original Song, Golden Globe Award for Best Actress – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy) as well as multiple nominations. Following the success of the film, the government of Argentina released its own film biography of Peron, entitled Eva Perón, to correct alleged distortions in the Lloyd Webber version. The movie earned Madonna the Guinness World Record title of 'Most costume changes in a film' - 85 times (which included 39 hats, 45 pairs of shoes and 56 pairs of earrings).
Tango connection: the story of Evita traces the life of Eva Duarte (later Eva Duarte de Perón) (Madonna) from a child from the lower class to becoming the first lady and spiritual leader of Argentina. In the film a married tango singer is having an affair with a younger woman - they are shown in bed together, and a musical number implies that the same woman later goes through a string of lovers in order to advance her career. Later on a tango club dance number, in which Eva makes her way through numerous partners, neatly establishes the attractive young woman's modus operandi, and the film deftly charts her single-minded rise from dance-hall girl and presumed prostitute to photographic model, aspiring actress and mistress to the increasingly rich and powerful.

The Tango Lesson (1996)

The Tango Lesson Director: Sally Potter
Starring: Potter and Pablo Verón
Points of interest: this was shot mostly in black and white in Paris and Buenos Aires.
Tango connection: the story is of a film-maker and screenwriter who suffering from writer's block, takes a break and travels to Paris, where she sees the dancer Pablo (Pablo Verón) performing tango. She becomes obsessed with the dance and offers Pablo a part in her film in exchange for dance lessons. The two become involved as dancers and lovers. The entire film is a semi-autobiographical story about Argentinean tango.

Tango (1998)

Tango Director: Carlos Saura
Starring: Cecilia Narova, Mía Maestro
Points of interest: the film is an Argentine and Spanish production (with English subtitles) and promoted as the most expensive Argentine film ever made. Tango was shown out of competition at the 1998 Cannes Film Festival. The film caused some controversy due to a lesbian kissing scene. This was criticized by some tango fans who claimed that same sex tango, even being common, doesn't have usually a sexual connotation. It was nominated for the 1998 Golden Globe Award for Best Foreign Language Film.
Tango connection: the story is that of a Buenos Aires director's quest to make the ultimate tango film - which is complicated when he falls in love with a beautiful and talented young dancer, who is the girlfriend of the dangerous investor in the picture. There are political undertones in a scene that recreates Argentina's dark years of suppression and disappearances. The entire film is placed around tango, and the setting is the production of a stage show - very theatrical setting. It is very real Argentinean tango, including men dancing with women, women dancing with women and men dancing with men.

Moulin Rouge (2001)

Moulin Rouge Director: Baz Luhrmann
Starring: Nicole Kidman, Ewan McGregor, John Leguizamo, Jim Broadbent, Richard Roxburgh, Garry McDonald, Matthew Whittet, Kylie Minogue, Plácido Domingo
Points of interest: the film is part of the Red Curtain Trilogy (Strictly Ballroom, Romeo and Juliet and Moulin Rouge) which are not related in plot, but are marked by: a theatre motif; intricate costumes, music, sets and script; each film's plot is based on a myth; a thematic device is aggressively utilized (in Moulin Rouge it is music); and each film represents the end of older methods of entertainment blended with contemporary styles. Kidman injured her ribs while filming one of the more complicated dance sequences. Moulin Rouge was nominated for six Academy Awards and three Golden Globes. It also won two Academy Awards and three Gold Globes (Best Motion Picture - Musical or Comedy, Best Actress - Motion Picture Musical or Comedy, Best Original Score - Motion Picture).
Tango connection: the film is of an idealist who moves to Paris in 1899, where he meets Harold Zidler, the owner of the nightclub called 'Moulin Rouge'. It is first-most a story is of a dying prostitute and a man who falls in love with her. First, there is desire; then, passion; Then, suspicion. Then jealousy, anger and betrayal. The tango is played out in a gypsy club - a tango-fied version of The Police’s song Roxanne.
Lyrics: see Tango de Roxanne Lyrics.

Tango de Roxanne

Chicago (2002)

Chicago Director: Rob Marshall
Starring: Renée Zellweger, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Richard Gere
Points of interest: the film adapted from adapted from the stage musical of the same name - originally this musical was actually not well received by audiences. The film won six Academy Awards, including Best Picture, and three Golden Globes including Best Motion Picture - Musical or Comedy. It was given the label 'the best screen musical for 30 years'.
Tango connection: the story centers on two criminals-of-passion who find themselves awaiting their trials for murder in 1920s Chicago. They fight for the fame that will keep them from the gallows. There is a prison in the film, in which there is a 'Cell Block Tango' - in it there is a dance number which combines suggestions of both violence and sensuality.
Lyrics: see Cell Block Tango Lyrics.

Cell Block Tango

Frida (2002)

Frida Director: Julie Taymor
Starring: Salma Hayek, Mía Maestro
Points of interest: This film is a biographical drama. It won two Academy Awards (Best Makeup and Best Original Music Score) and one Golden Globe Award (Best Original Music Score - Motion Picture).
Tango connection: the film depicts the professional and private life of the surrealist Mexican painter Frida Kahlo, who channeled the pain of a crippling injury and her tempestuous marriage into her work. In the film, after winning a bet, Frida (Salma Hayek) dances tango with the gorgeous Tina (Ashley Judd) in what is commonly assessed as an extremely sensual scene. They have a love affair later in the story.

Assassination Tango (2002)

Assassination Tango Director: Robert Duvall
Starring: Robert Duvall, Rubén Blades, Kathy Baker, Luciana Pedraza
Points of interest: this film is Robert Duvall's tribute to tango, which is why it is filmed entirely in Buenos Aires, using real tango dancers including Geraldine Rojas, Javiar Rodriguez, Pablo Veron, Jorge Dispari, La Turca, Orlanda Paiva, Maria Nieves, Armando Orzuza, Carlos Copello, Alicia Monti and Los Hermanos Macana. The club in the film (with the checkerboard floor) is Sin Rumbo.
Tango connection: this entire film is a steamy thriller set within Argentine tango. It is the story of a successful American hitman sent to Argentina to kill a former General, but when the General delays his return to the country, the hitman finds a beautiful dancer who becomes his teacher and guide into Argentina's sensual world of the tango.

Shall We Dance (2004)

Shall We Dance Director: Peter Chelsom
Starring: Richard Gere, Jennifer Lopez, Susan Sarandon, Stanley Tucci
Points of interest: this film is a remake of the award-winning 1996 Japanese film Shall We Dansu?. About $4000 worth of jewelry worn by Susan Sarandon during the filming of the movie was stolen - but recovered at a murder scene. The filming location was moved to Winnipeg from Toronto because of the SARS scare in early 2003.
Tango connection: the story is of a meek workaholic who feels trapped in a dull, mind-numbing existence. But one night, his whole life changes when the sight of a beautiful dance instructor inspires him to break out of his mold and sign up for dancing lessons; but he keeps his exciting new passion a secret from his family and friends. This movie is mostly about ballroom dancing, but at one point Richard Gere dances passable tango with Jennifer Lopez. The scene itself is beautifully filmed.

12 Tangos: Adios Buenos Aires (2005)

12 Tangos: Adios Buenos Aires Director: Arne Birkenstock
Starring: Roberto Tonet, Marcela Maiola, Yolanda Zubieta, Mariana Zubieta, Fabiana Zubieta, Néstor López, Rodrigo, Alfredo Carlino
Points of interest: this film is a professionally made documentary on the subject of modern Argentina and the renaissance of its tango. The music for the film was exclusively recorded and performed for 12 Tangos, for example La Cachila (shown below) is performed in La Catedral, Buenos Aires, by five of the best Argentinean musicians: José Libertella, Luis Borda, Mauricio Marcelli, Diego Schissi and Oscar Giunta.
Tango connection: 12 Tangos: Adios Buenos Aires is a documentary about the economic crisis, Argentine emigration, despair and rebirth of the tango told with twelve modern and classic tangos.

Je Ne Suis Pas Là Pour Être Aimé (2005)

Je Ne Suis Pas Là Pour Être Aimé Director: Stéphane Brizé
Starring: Patrick Chesnais, Anne Consigny and Georges Wilson
Points of interest: this film has two of the best French actors, and it is said that it is impossible for a film about love not to be clichéd; everything that could be done has already been done - except this film! In 2005 the film won the prestigious CEC Award for Best Film at the San Sebastian International Film Festival. In 2006 it was also nominated for Best Actor (Patrick Chesnais) at the European Film Awards.
Tango connection: Neither Jean-Claude (Patrick Chesnais) nor Françoise (Anne Consigny) are happy with their lives. He has a job as a law enforcement officer making court-ordered seizures and has regular visits to his father, and she is about to be married to a fiance preoccupied with his book. Following advice from a doctor, Jean-Clause decides to take a tango lesson (which happen across the road from his work each day) where they meet. The rest, as they say, is history.

Take the Lead (2006)

Take the Lead Director: Liz Friedlander
Starring: Antonio Banderas, Rob Brown, Alfre Woodard, Dante Basco, Marcus T. Paulk, Jenna Dewan, Lauren Collins
Points of interest: Originally, Antonio Banderas turned down the part when he realized the whole film was about ballroom dancing. However after the producers begged him for some time to understand the script, he signed on.
Tango connection: based on a true story, the movie tells of the struggle of a dance teacher to give to a group of problem kids a second chance by exploring their dance skills. He catches the students' attention with a tango session, and after their initial indifference, they eventually compete in a dance contest; the important thing isn't winning, but making a difference.

Easy Virtue (2008)

Easy Virtue Director: Stephan Elliott
Starring: Jessica Biel, Ben Barnes, Kristin Scott Thomas, Colin Firth, Kimberley Nixon
Points of interest: based on the 1928 silent movie of the same name by Alfred Hitchcock. During the end credits all of the musicians who played in the orchestra featured on the soundtrack are introduced in voice-over simulating the introductions from the bandstand of a live performance, with each musician playing a brief sample.
Tango connection: the story is a comedy in which a glamorous American widow marries a young Englishman in the South of France. When they return to England to meet his parents, his mother takes a strong dislike to their new daughter-in-law, while his father, Jim, finds a kindred spirit. The climax of the film centers on a tango between the characters.

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