Tangos: The Exile of Gardel
Leave Us a Review
  • Tangos: The Exile of Gardel
  • 119 minutes  -  Musical
  • Original title: Tangos, el exilio de Gardel
  • Director:Fernando Solanas
  • Language: Spanish
  • Country: Argentina

A group of exiled Argentines in Paris, during the years of military dictatorship in the South American country, rehearse a musical theater play imbued with their melancholy longing for their troubled country.

Watch the trailer
REVIEW BY Pablo Draletti Movie EXPERT
Review posted: 29/08/2013

Tangos: El exilio de Gardel (Tangos: The Exile of Gardel) is a musical about a group of Argentine and Uruguayan friends and acquaintances hiding in Paris while waiting for the bloody Argentine dictatorship – known as the National Reorganization Process (1976-83) – to end so they can return to their country. While it’s a deeply political and autobiographical film (director and screenwriter Fernando “Pino” Solanas had to flee to Paris himself to avoid assassination), it’s also a fantasy and can be accurately described as belonging to the tradition of magical realism (a mixture of realistic settings and fantastic events). Characters burst into song, dance, and participate in highly surreal sequences as they experience nostalgia and heartbreak.

"While it’s a deeply political and autobiographical film, it’s also a fantasy."

First of all, El exilio de Gardel looks gorgeous in a way that only a properly lit film can look. No matter how much digital technology develops and becomes the new standard, the images here have the kind of grit and truth to them that only celluloid can provide. Solanas develops his movie not so much as a unified, coherent story, but as a series of vignettes showcasing different aspects of the exiles’ experience, linked together by dance sequences and gorgeous music especially composed by Astor Piazzolla, another Argentine artist who spent a big chunk of his life in Europe.

The film often has the main characters interact with the ghosts of famous Argentine historical figures, such as San Martin (who was involved in the fight for Argentine independence in the 1800s and who finally died in France) and tango greats Discépolo and Gardel (the former is played by Solanas himself). Some vignettes work better than others. The mother-daughter rift that is supposed to be the emotional center of the film (since the girl loosely narrates the story) is loud and hollow, with the two women doing over-the-top screaming matches which hardly come off as heartfelt, particularly in contrast with other moments which feel incredibly sincere. A number of other scenes are also comedic and very goofy.

El exilio de Gardel

El exilio de Gardel marks a high point in Argentine cinema and in Solanas’ career, as the return to democracy in 1983 prompted an interest in depicting the dark period of dictatorship for the world to see. Along with this movie, 1985 also saw the release of The Official Story, a much more realistic work focused on the kidnapping of babies that took place during the dictatorship, which won the Best Foreign-Language Film award at the Oscars. But few films can be as simultaneously committed and delirious as this one by Solanas. In the late 60s, the Argentine director signed, along with his friend Octavio Getino, the Third Cinema Manifesto, with which they attempted to distance themselves from both the Hollywood production system and the European art cinema of the time, arguing that filmmakers of this new Third Cinema didn’t just express themselves but the collective. The influence of 70s European films, however, such as Fellini’s Amarcord and even Bertolucci’s Last Tango in Paris, is obvious in El exilio de Gardel.

"Few films can be as simultaneously committed and delirious as this one by Solanas."

The language used in this movie is true to the way native Buenos Aires people speak. If you’re an English-speaker learning Spanish and you think you can immediately travel to Buenos Aires and engage in conversation with everybody, watch this film first, because you might be surprised. It would be similar to learning Italian from books and then being tossed into the middle of Naples. If nothing else, this film will give you a chance to see true tango masters, such as Piazzolla and Roberto Goyeneche, doing what they do best. In recent years, seeing as his wishes for a better country had not yet materialized, “Pino” Solanas abandoned filmmaking to pursue a career in politics, to the great loss of our cinema screens and the benefit of none, I would venture .

El exilio de Gardel