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POTTER, SALLY : The Tango Lesson

Exploring her own heart and soul, Sally Potter has made a personal film which explores how boundaries become bonds between artists in different disciplines. Potter talks to ANDREW L. URBAN.

Filmmakers are not the best to talk about their work, says filmmaker Sally Potter, talking about her work. That’s not meant to sound glib. Ironic maybe. We are a world apart, Sally Potter and I, talking on the phone between Sydney and London. We are discussing her latest film, The Tango Lesson, and inevitably, there are ironies, considering the film is so self-exploratory. Sally (played by Sally) and Pablo (played by Pablo) meet in the context of dance – the tango in particular.

"I think dance is graphic….the texture and tone are very well explored in black and white."

On a trip to Paris, filmmaker Sally (Sally Potter) meets Pablo (Pablo Veron), a tango dancer. Entranced by the dance – and the dancer – Sally asks him to teach her to tango. After a short trip back to London to try and work on her film projects, she visits Buenos Aires and learns more from Pablo's friends. Sally and Pablo meet again but this time their relationship changes; she realises they want different things from each other.

"Evocative and thought provoking, The Tango Lesson is visually stimulating cinema," says Louise Keller in REVIEWS, "bringing together elements of music, rhythm and dance as a parody for acceptance of self, roots and expression of the soul. It is an unusual film, which exudes mystery and ambiguity, and while the plot is undefined as such, we all embark on a journey of the spirit that crosses barriers of language, colour, body movement and cinema."

Potter shot the film in black and white, "because I felt instincively drawn to it, and I think dance is graphic, so it’s quite right….the texture and tone are very well explored in black and white."

"I wanted to do something that borrows from real experience"

The film "borrows from and refers to cinema verité," she says, "because I wanted to do something that borrows from real experience, transferred to the screen but no longer documentary. I have to laugh when people say ‘you just pointed the camera’."

That’s because the film is completely scripted, she says, even though audiences may be forgiven for not thinking so. "I used my own life as source material," she explains, "so it’s an adaptation…it’s rewritten. It needed to obey the laws of fiction."

It’s a brave film in every way; it is private, it is not easy for the audience and it is without a real plot, being an entirely inner journey.

"It’s about choices we all have to make ... it's not about the tango"

"I made a conscious decision to open my heart to make a very intimate link with every member of the audience," she says. "But it’s not purely about me. It’s trying to expose a universal nerve. It’s about choices we all have to make. Who’s writing your life? Can you follow a dream? It’s not about the tango…."

Potter certainly has a strict regime for herself as an artist. She tries to make everything she does "a watershed – I like starting afresh in whatever I do."

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