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Film Scratches: The Words Behind The Dance – Una Mina (2016)

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Film Scratches focuses on the world of experimental and avant-garde film, especially as practiced by individual artists. It features a mixture of reviews, interviews, and essays.

A Review by David Finkelstein.

Una Mina is an eight minute dance film by Argentinian filmmaker María Papi. The footage shows actress Gesche Picolin performing tango steps in and around a big warehouse market which sells used furniture. She may be dressed in a striking red coat and impossibly tall lavender heels, but her performance barely seems to register on bystanders, mainly because her dancing is not the full-blooded tango you might see on stage or in a club, but rather it is merely a slightly stylized from of walking, taking a few fancy steps that hint at the attitude of a tango dancer without really looking like “dancing.” The traditional bandoneón music is by Carlos Páez, performed by Pablo Gignoli.

The bulk of the film, in intertitles, is taken up with a language lesson, an examination in German and Spanish of Lunfardo, the slang of the underclass in Buenos Aires, the dialect which is used in many tango lyrics. (“Mina” is Lunfardo for “woman.”) An extremely colorful and vivid dialect, like most dialects spoken in a demimonde, the terms for various kinds of women reveal the attitude that women are objects like pieces of fruit: made for pleasure or for making money, meant to be discarded or ridiculed when they are no longer attractive or lucrative. This language lesson is meant to suggest that a seamy heritage of trafficking in women underlies the entire culture of tango, and by extension, the place of women in modern day Argentina.

UnaMina1The film does not make its argument directly through choreography, by finding connections between the tango movements and the everyday gestures of women. Picolin’s movements are generically “feminine,” but they are not integrated into the world of the market. Nor does the film make its argument through other dramatic or visual means. The rhetorical weight of the film’s argument is supposed to be carried out by alternating between the didactic examination of Lunfardo terms and the muted dance sequences. This may work on an intellectual level, but not on the level of film art.

David Finkelstein is a filmmaker, musician, and critic. For more information on Film Scratches, or to submit an experimental film for review, contact lakeivan@earthlink.net.

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