Dir.: German Kral; Drama-Documentary with Maria Nieves and Juan Carlos Copes; Argentina/Germany/Italy 2015 | 85′ |
Argentine born writer/director German Kral (Musica Cubana) who studied at the Film School in Munich under Wim Wenders (credited as one of the executive producers), has created a passionate and imaginative portrait of Argentina’s leading Tango dancers, Maria Nieves and Juan Carlos Copes, now both in their 80ies. But Our Last Tango is much more than history: it is gender warfare of the worst kind, with Maria’s and Juan Carlos’ life story easily as dramatic as their dancing career.
Born in the early1930ies, Maria and Juan Carlos came from a modest background, and met as teenagers in one of the Milongas, the dancing halls of Buenos Aires, “where the poor tried to forget their hard lives dancing at the weekend”.
Nieves and Copes devoted their lives to the Tango, but the Golden Age of the dance came to an abrupt end in the 50ies with the advent of rock. But Copes re-wrote the book: his choreography changed the Tango forever: his stage show gave the art not only a new lifespan in Argentina, but the couple introduced it to the world, even the USA, where Tango was as good as unknown. But whilst Maria just lived for Juan, the latter was more interested in her as a dance partner. They married in Las Vegas, but after their return to Argentina, Juan Carlos left her for a world tour. In his absence, Maria found a new partner, but when Copes returned, they lived and danced together again. But Copes became an alcoholic and philanderer. Without telling Maria, he married Myriam, and the couple had two daughters. Maria’s adoration of Copes turned into hatred. The couple went on dancing together, hardly speaking to each other, before Copes decided (under pressure from his wife) to break completely with Maria. She was over 60, when he told her, that their Japan tour would be their last engagement. Today he is dancing with his daughter Johana, who admits, that she was at first just a stand-in for Maria, whilst Nieves, after a long depression, also got her career going again.
Kral has introduced two couples, representing Nieves and Copes as youngsters and middle-aged dancers. They walk through Buenos Aires with her, visiting places of the past and sharing their reflections with Maria, who occupies the lion’s part of the docu-drama, whilst Copes contributes some rather arrogant and barbed comments: when confronted with his life style, which led to the break-up of their relationship, he is proud of himself: I had to do it, because I am a man”.
DoPs Joe Heim and Felix Monti have not only contributed to the magic of the dance scenes, their glorious panorama shots of the nightly Buenos Aires, with Maria wandering around the city, are a celebration of her resurrection. But the main memory of Our Last Tango is the dance itself: passionate and very, very sexy. AS
ON RELEASE FROM 22 SEPTEMBER 2017