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
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
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
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