Our Last Tango is a beautifully choreographed docudrama from start to finish. I realise this is oxymoronic at first glance – how can a biopic about a truly chaotic couple be as rhythmic as the music so close to its heart? I tell you, it is a love story so compelling and beautifully sad that you’ll have trouble believing it was not written by some author somewhere. The careful direction and storytelling techniques are not only sympathetic to the true lives it portrays (although it does seem a little one sided at times) but also mirror the titular dance in terms of rhythm, emotion and grace.
Our Last Tango (Un Tango Mas) looks into the private and professional lives of María Nieves and Juan Carlos Copes – a couple who are almost solely responsible for bringing the Argentinian Tango into mainstream attention. It quickly becomes apparent that the public and the private cannot ever be wholly separated, as their dancing careers directly affect their relationship and visa versa. Starting as dance partners, becoming lovers, marrying years later only to get divorced shortly after, the couple remain friends even now and join together for Our Last Tango for one last time.
Although there is plenty of archival footage available to create a pretty standard documentary on the couple, Kral chooses to use actors and dancers to reenact the pinnacle points in Nieves and Copes lives. This immediately adds a new element and depth to the piece, making it a performance of sorts in its own right. A performance about a performance – inception much? In between these beautifully choreographed moments, the couple tells their own story in their own words. From meeting as teenagers, becoming international dance stars to developing a passionate romance that resulted multiple, crushing infidelities, no stone appears to be left unturned. There is a bias however; I mean what is a drama without a villain, without conflict? We are led from frame to frame to sympathise with Nieve’s side of the story. Cheated on and left abandoned while Copes goes on to further his career with different partners, this documentary certainly highlights the pain inflicted on Nieve both professionally and personally. We are always told there are two sides to every story, but in this case there is definitely a side to favour. Perhaps this is another reference to the art form: the woman is always made to look beautiful in a Tango.
Showcased at multiple international festivals and winner of Best Cinematography in 2016, it makes sense that this film is now going for an even wider release. Not everyone who goes to watch this film will be acquainted with the world of dance. I certainly wasn’t. But the emotions portrayed are something every viewer can relate to on some level. Nieve and Copes certainly achieved their goal of making this art form more accessible to all, although perhaps not for the reasons they originally intended.
Our Last Tango is out in cinemas now!