Monday, February 24, 2014

Postcards from the Underworld: Buenos Aires, the Tango and Advice from Al Pacino


One of my favorite films of all time is Scent of a Woman, starring Al Pacino. Anybody seen it? If not, rent it on Netflix - it's a winner. Al Pacino plays cantankerous Lt. Colonel Frank Slade, an ex Army Ranger who is responsible for his own blindness in a drunken grenade accident. Depressed and down on his luck, Slade secretly plans suicide, but not before a final blow out trip to New York. Needing someone to accompany him, he hires Charlie, a scholarship student at a nearby tony boy's prep school.  Returning to the school after the trip, Charlie, played by Chris O'Donnell, is about to be expelled for not revealing which of his classmates damaged the headmaster's Jaguar - a prank Charlie witnessed from afar. Pacino, in an epic speech in front of an all school assembly, vows to "take a flamethrower to this place," chiding the headmaster and the disciplinary committee for not recognizing Charlie's integrity in refusing to rat on his classmates. 

But the movie's softer focus is Charlie's growing compassion for Frank's plight. The two characters help each other out of their respective tough spots in life and in one of the film's lighter scenes Frank dances the tango with a young woman in a swank New York hotel. Refusing to let his blindness get in the way, Frank asks Charlie for the floor dimensions before he embarks on his dance, and that dance becomes a metaphor for dealing with life's problems. When Charlie loses faith that he will find a way out of his predicament, Frank gives him a pep talk. He tells Charlie whenever he is struggling in life,

 "If you get tangled up, then tango on." 

Traveling in Buenos Aires a couple years ago, I snapped these shots of couples performing the tango.



Seeing the concentration and precision in their actions reminded me that life is one big movement. 

We continually get ourselves wound up in problems, many of them in our heads, 



and it's liberating to see that we can unwind ourselves. 

Whenever I find myself embroiled in a problem that I can't immediately see the solution, I try to remember Pacino's character's advice:

If you find yourself getting tangled up

tango on

On a sad note, this film also starred a young Philip Seymour Hoffman as a classmate of Charlie's. Hoffman's portrayal of a privileged prep school boy is spot on, as were all the roles he played. The world is poorer for his loss. 

14 comments:

  1. I did see Scent of a Woman and loved it! Far better to tango on than to sit and stew in life because what is life if not to be lived regardless.
    Philip Seymour Hoffman is a sad loss for this sweet old world.

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  2. I didn't see it, but want to now. I know they tango all over Buenos Aires, but in the streets would be fun to see.

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  3. Fantastic photos..such a beautiful-intoxicating dance and such gorgeous and magical dancers...wonderful action shots...very alive! yes a good movie indeed! and yes P-s-h will be missed!
    Beautiful post kindred!

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  4. 'We continually get ourselves wound up in problems, many of them in our heads,'

    :)

    Thank you for this post, Sis. I have forwarded the link to someone else I know who will deeply appreciate it, also.

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  5. yep,, good movie,,yep "tango on". Sometimes old country boys shuffle a different step, but I suppose it is still" the tango". ,,,reckon? :) Thanks for the post..glenn

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    1. Whether you call it the Texas two step or twerking, I think everybody's trying to tango at heart...

      Good to see you Glenn!

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  6. There is something so exhilarating about a tango. I adore it and I love seeing couples go through the movements. I remember Scent of a Woman but I think that I had to stop watching it half way through the movie for some reason or another.

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  7. I love to watch passionate solo flamenco dancing, so you won't be surprised I also love the intensity of the it-takes-two-to-tango tango. Yes — exhilarating and and sexy and no-holds-barred life-embracing! I now have Scent of a Woman in my LoveFilm queue.

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    1. Hope you enjoy - let me know what you think of it...

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  8. Oh I remember the movie. And that tango -- oh my!

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  9. You make me want to dance and to rent The Scent of A Woman. I missed it when it first came out.

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  10. loved that movie, it was wonderful. I am headed to Buenos Aires in May for a short vacation. Nephew is there studying for the years. any specific hints of wonderful things to see?

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  11. Tango on, yes, excellent advice!
    I had the biggest crush on Chris O'Donnell in Scent of a Woman :)

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  12. I know my comment is a little late, but I finally remembered to read this post Suze referred me to. I do love Scent of a Woman (my husband does a great Al Pacino impersonation :)) and I love tango so much I wrote a novel that revolves around this dance. Thanks for sharing those wonderful photographs and for your great post. Tango on!

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