stuck ones neck out

The Tango Lesson

The Tango Lesson (La lección de tango) (1997) is a drama film by British director Sally Potter. It is a semi-autobiographical film starring Potter and Pablo Verón, about Argentinian Tango.

The film, a co-production of Argentina, France, Germany, Netherlands and the United Kingdom, was produced by Christopher Sheppard in Britain, and Óscar Kramer in Argentina and was shot mostly in black and white in Paris and Buenos Aires. The soundtrack includes Ástor Piazzolla's "Libertango."


The film tells of Sally (Sally Potter) a filmmaker and screenwriter who is suffering from writer's block. She's also dissatisfied with her film project, a murder mystery movie called "Rage" which focuses on the fashion industry. She 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 deeply involved as dancers and as lovers, and their emotional intimacy threatens the success of their dancing together.

The film explores the conflict between the woman dancer accepting the man's lead in the dance, while the man must accept the woman's lead in the film. It is also a love story, as well as a showcase for Verón's dancing.


The film was first presented at the Venice Film Festival in Italy on August 29, 1997. One week later it was screened at the Toronto Film Festival in Canada on September 8, 1997.

The picture screened at various film festivals, including: the Mar del Plata Film Festival, Argentina; the Reykjavik Film Festival, Iceland; the Istanbul Film Festival, Turkey; and others.

Exhibition dates

Critical reception

New York Times film critic, Janet Maslin, thought the film was rather simple, and wrote, "Stiffly playing a filmmaker with a growing passion for the tango, [Sally Potter] makes this a handsome, dryly meticulous film with no real fire anywhere beyond its supple dance scenes. The lessons are numbered and cataloged with an obsessive care like that of Peter Greenaway, but this material has little of his corresponding complexity.

Chicago Sun-Times film critic Roger Ebert discussed in his review the film's major goal, writing, "Most dances are for people who are falling in love. The tango is a dance for those who have survived it, and are still a little angry about having their hearts so mishandled. The Tango Lesson is a movie for people who understand that difference.

Edward Guthmann, San Francisco Chronicle staff critic, lauded the film and the courage of director Potter, and wrote, "British director Sally Potter stuck her neck out when she made The Tango Lesson, a fictionalized account of her relationship with Argentine tango master Pablo Veron...Potter takes what seemed like a recipe for embarrassment and excess and delivers a film that's sweet and understated and devoid of diva posturing...[the film is] smoothly directed, nicely written and falters only in the performance that Potter was able to squeeze out of herself while performing her multiple tasks." Yet, Guthmann believes Potter should have casted another actor in her role. He adds, "It's too bad, then, that Potter couldn't have figured out a way to use another actress to play herself. She often looks worn out, which makes sense given her offscreen responsibilities but works against her tale of courtship, infatuation and the emotional sparks that fly between two gifted, bullheaded artists.


  • Sally Potter as Sally
  • Pablo Verón as Pablo
  • Morgane Maugran as Red Model
  • Géraldine Maillet as Yellow Model
  • Katerina Mechera as Blue Model
  • David Toole as Fashion Designer
  • George Yiasoumi as Photographer
  • Michele Parent as Seamstress
  • Claudine Mavros as Seamstress
  • Monique Couturier as Seamstress
  • Matthew Hawkins as Bodyguard
  • Simon Worgan as Bodyguard
  • Carolina Iotti as Pablo's partner
  • Zobeida as Pablo's Friend
  • Orazio Massaro as Pablo's Friend





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