Saturday, March 23, 2013

Film Review: Tango Abrazos

"Tango Abrazos" ** 1\2 (out of ****)

The tango is a dance of life, love, seduction and passion. It is also a great way to pick up women.

That's what we are told in director Metod Pevec's "Tango Abrazos" (2012), a Slovenian film which played at the 16th annual European Union Film Festival in Chicago.

There have been many dance movies made which indicate dancing can change our lives. It gives us a fresh perspective. Think of the Japanese movie "Shall We Dance?" (1997) or the American remake made in 2004 with Richard Gere and Jennifer Lopez. There is the work of acclaimed filmmaker Carlos Saura, best known for his "Flamenco Trilogy"; "Blood Wedding" (1981), "Carmen" (1983) and El Amor Brujo" (1986). He even directed a movie called "Tango".

In all of these movies dancing over takes the characters' lives. It provides a new meaning. I didn't quite come away feeling that way after watching "Tango Abrazos". No doubt that Mr. Pevec wanted us to feel that way. And the film does show the effect dancing is having on their lives. But, the problem I have with the film is there isn't enough passion. The characters project a feeling of "ho-hum-ness" if such a thing exist. There is no vitality to this film. No real energy.

We follow two couples; Tjasa (Jana Zupancic) and Uros (Uros Furst) and Leon (Primoz Pirnat) and Lena (Pia Zemljic). Tjasa and Lena decide they want to take dancing lessons and want the men in their lives to come along. The men are recluctant but agree. There's a old rule most men know; if you keep your wife happy, you'll have fewer headaches.

Lena and Leon were married on a whim in Las Vegas. They seem happy but we sense are not a good match. If for any reason Leon is overweight and not an attractive man. Tjasa and Uros are not married, only living together. Their relationship seems more based on rountine and order rather than love and passion.

As they start to learn the tango, the dance will affect their lives differently. During the class everyone is asked to switch partners. In other words, dance with a different person than the one you walked in with. So Tjasa dances with Leon and Uros dances with Lena. The two couples soon become friendly, though we are led to believe through dancing, the seductive moves of the tango, the intimacy involved, is starting to bring the new dancing partners together. They dance better, look happier with the new partners than their real partners.

The dancing sequences are the best. The music is an absolute pleasure to listen to and it is fun to see the characters dance. These pieces are among the best directed sequences in the movie. It is when we don't see these characters dance I was losing interest. The characters are not fleshed out entirely. Only half-heartedly. I didn't feel like I was going through the process with these characters as the tango changes their lives.

I'm still glad I saw "Tango Abrazos" at the festival. It is a Slovenian film and Slovenian films never receive distribution in the U.S. So I like to take advantage of seeing films from Eastern European during film festivals, knowing full well, this will be my one and only chance to ever see these movies on a big screen (or even a small screen).

There are some good things to say about this film. The dancing is wonderful and the music a pleasure. Everything else could have used some work.