Tanguito

Cannes Film Festival, May, 18, 1993–Based on a true story, Tanguito marks the directorial debut of Marcelo Pineyro, better known as the Oscar-winning producer of the popular Argentinean film, The Official Story. Though not as emotionally powerful as the l985 film, Tanguito's political alertness and relevant message, dealing with individual oppression under military dictatorship, will appeal to viewers interested in the kind of political cinema practiced by Costa-Gavras, Oliver Stone, and few other directors.

Set in Buenos Aires in the late l960s, tale is based on the true story of the popular Argentinean rock singer who died “mysteriously,” during the “dirty war” that was unofficially declared by the military regime.

As co-written by Aida Bortnik and Pineyro, tale revolves around Tango (Fernan Miras), a young rebellious singer who perceives his music as a medium for both personal and political expression. Arrested by the cops while joining a students demonstration, Tango meets at the police station Mariana (Cecilia Dopazo), a beautiful philosophy student. Without uttering a single word, the youngsters passionately fall in love, triumphantly overcoming their class differences: Tango a Barrio kid who never met his father, and Mariana is a rich colonel's daughter.

Idealistically committed to his music, Tango turns down a lucrative record contract because he refuses to sing other people's songs in English. He is imprisoned again, when he refuses to collaborate with Lobo (Hector Alterio), a policeman who offers him protection in exchange for vital information. At the inevitably tragic end, Tango's medical records are altered and he is subjected to a brutal shock treatment.

Ambitious in scope, Tanguito is by turns a tale of Rebel With a Cause, an fervent love story, a gritty prison drama, a testament of Argentine's youth movement, and a political allegory. However, the film's shifting locales and changing moods are not easily reconcilable, resulting in a narrative that, despite its urgent relevancy, is engaging without being truly stirring.

Main problem is, the film deals with the general issue of selling out, a problem that prevails in any bourgeois capitalistic society–be it democratic or authoritarian. Moreover, as depicted in the film, the government's oppression–and authority system–remains an abstract, external force, never fully integrated into the story the way it did in Official Story.

First-time helmer Marcelo Pineyro punches out the many brief scenes emphatically, with each making its strong point and then ending. But this is also a weakness: the film covers too large a canvas and tries to deal with too many topics.

The acting, however, is uniformly accomplished. As Tango, Fernan Miras, the talented actor-singer, sparkles with unusual ebullience. He is without a doubt the best thing in the movie, keeping it afloat even in its weaker moments.

Despite these flaws, however, Tanguito has an absorbing story to tell, which it communicates to younger audiences in their own language and music.