A table at a coffee shop seems the ideal place to solve the problems of the world, to catch up with the latest gossip and to passionately chat about The Tango Lesson; after all who better than those who have had their share of tango lessons to Siskel-and Ebert Sally Potter’s dream come through.

Dick saw it in Sweden and can’t stop talking about the tango valseado that Pablo and Sally did by the Seine, reminiscent of an unforgettable scene from An American in Paris.

Samantha was at the showing of the movie at the Venice Festival and now laughs at her emotional outburst of contempt for what she considered an arrogant attempt by Sally Potter to portray her movie as a love story. That’s not how love stories go on the dance floor, she wrote in a letter to the editor of an Italian newspaper, but then she reasons, not every fifty something Brit lady gets the chance to do a movie about tango and makes it look like half way decent. At best they get to start a war in the Islas Malvinas or to be featured in a Monty Python film.

Another round of cappuccinos, cafe lattes and Kalua makes its way to the table. The perky waitress has caught up with the conversation and she is eyeballing Jake Manzana who looks dapper in his blue blazer and gray flannel pants. He’s quick to say that the Tango Lesson is the kind of outing to which I could bring a date without fear of getting her bored. “Perky” bends over the table and gives Jake two good reasons to make him stare at her for a moment before he turns his head and gazes at the rain falling beyond the windows of the cafe.

She’d love to learn the tango and a flurry of business cards fall on her tray. Best tips she ever had…

Woody snaps, I guess the special effects budget ran short because in the scene where they dance a milonga in the rain on the streets of Buenos Aires, I can see that 100 feet away it’s not raining.

Come on, says Camille, a contra-artist who is always on the leading edge of creative ways to mix tango with art, you probably have enjoyed your quota of wet T-shirt contests in your life. Dancing in the rain? Don’t knock it until you try it.

Matt is patting his hair into place, enjoying his own reflection in the window he’s using as a mirror. He speaks to the group, but never takes his eyes from his reflection, or his hands from his hair. The real star of the film is Buenos Aires, the scenes at Ideal are just as authentic as they can be. Sally, he continues with the authority of a connoisseur, I can’t stand because she is so self-centered. On cue, everybody looks at Matt, with a quizzical question mark in their eyes.

Suzy is about to lash out something vitriolic, everybody can see that, but then thinking that they‘re gonna have to ride back together she just rolls up her eyes and deliberately opens the New York Post and reads aloud, The Tango Lesson doesn’t have legs.

What does the writer know? Tammy, jumping up from her chair, snaps, I dare him to prove that! She is in town on a grant from the Tango Cheerleading Federation visiting local hoofer Darren, serious, scruffy, with a trendy new growth of beard. Sit Tammy, sit. He’s a dancer; he’s born again; a single tear rolls down his face.

Milenita confesses that the look Alicia gives Carlos in the scene where he is hustling Sally is too close for comfort. Hay miradas que matan, rebuts Juanita with an air of complicity, using an acquired Spanish accent that drives everybody crazy. Indeed if looks could kill.

Do you think that Veron is French dipping in the airport scene?, asks Tito with a lecherous look on his face. It’s French kissing, you dirty old man!, snaps Margarita, his embarrassed wife.

I think Sally committed an act of wild hubris by assuming center stage in her new film about dance and love, says Janet, who writes for the New York Times. There is a moment of silence as everybody ponders the depth of Janet’s statement before everybody burst out laughing.

Come on you guys, give the old spinster a break. It takes a lot of guts to put in black and white a poignant story about the lessons of tango capturing with a very subtle sense of humor and irony the egocentric and chauvinist subtexts of the Tango scene both in Buenos Aires and abroad. Heads turn in disbelief to a bearded guy who’s tap dancing by the table, clad in a long dripping overcoat.

Can you guys spare a quarter for a cup of coffee?, he begs extending a paper cup with his right hand.

Outside the rain continues to wreck havoc with the traffic.

Margarita’s eyes have turned to the window where the capricious raindrops and the reflections of the street lights have drawn a smug image of Sally Potter’s face. Ave Maria purisima, it’s a miracle, she mutters as she slowly crosses her chest…

Posted April 8, 2000 by Alberto & Valorie in HUMOR

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