María Nieves Rego and Juan Carlos Copes, two of the world’s most famous tango dancers, still move with grace and passion on the dance floor, even into their eighties. Only now, it is not with each other. Our Last Tango looks at the 50 years over which the duo cultivated a creative relationship that transformed the art form of tango. More intimately, it is the story of their love, marriage and separation.

The film pairs interviews with Nieves and Copes with recreations of dance numbers and video footage of the couple. Out of the gate, Nieves is the one willing to share, speaking about the start of their relationship in a way that feels almost as if she’d stolen from the works of poets, though there is a genuineness about her that removes any doubt that the words are her own. She speaks the language of love not only through her dancing but through her stories. The young dancers who portray Nieves and Copes (Ayelén Ávarez Miño and Juan Malizia) as they first meet in a dancehall as teenagers are just as captivating to watch as Nieves’s tales are to hear.

Director German Kral made the unexpected decision to have the dancers—two separate pairs to represent the duo at different stages of their career and lives—be involved in the interviewing process. At the beginning, this works wonders as their performances have an added authenticity when Nieves steps into their dance rehearsal to tell them they need to dance closer as she and Copes would have done. For the second half of the film, the insertion of the younger dancers feels less as students learning from their subjects and more as actors playing out the role of the audience. They sit around tables making observations about old photos and pondering the dynamic of the couple’s relationship, questions the viewer could easily explore on their own. Without Nieves or Copes in the room, this feels less like a way to advance the story or increase authenticity and more like unnecessary gossip.

Perhaps this shift occurs at this point in the story because the love is lost between the two and the film moves into the less romantic part of their relationship. Maybe it is because we are required to speculate about what Nieves was feeling when Copes ended their artistic partnership. The previously charming and open woman shuts down, letting out frustration as she is probed about the breakdown of the partnership with, “You can make things up if you want.”

Instead of “making things up,” Kral moves on to what life looks like after the love and creative partnership were gone. Both continue to dance. One has a family to go home to, the other sits in an apartment alone. Nieves recalls wondering if an audience was clapping for her out of pity at a performance later in her life, but notes that onstage she is a “lioness.” We see a lot of that lioness in Our Last Tango, but Kral also paints a picture that calls for some pity. Scenes of the older woman sitting on her couch alone seem to make a statement about her life that isn’t reflected in the account she tells. She is a woman who regrets nothing, but many of the shots feel as though they negate that story.

Nevertheless, it is clear that the story we are told is Nieves’ version, one from a hopeless romantic, making it alluring and heartbreaking to watch. Copes is mostly uninvolved, only providing a few interviews and rather banal ones at that. We do not see him taking a hand in shaping the dance sequences of the reenactments or giving much advisement to the dancers about the emotions he had experienced. Nieves spins a passionate, tender tale, one that Copes chills when he does jump into the frame. By the end when the two walk away from one another on stage, perhaps for the last time, it can’t help but be felt that the vibrant lioness is not the one we should pity.

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