LARS MOVIN has seen the film and met the director.
In light of the many portrait films currently typifying the documentary genre, Argentine director Daniel Rosenfeld’s debut film on bandoneón player Dino Saluzzi is an inspiring experience. A documentary pearl, poetic and vibrant, as soaring and organic as one of the principal character’s compositions.
Since the death of Astor Piazzolla in 1992, Dino Saluzzi (b. 1935) has occupied the role of the tango’s greatest innovator. Yet the fact that Saluzzi’s genre-defying music goes way beyond tango is undeniably apparent in the film that follows the incessantly travelling musician on tour through Europe and back again to South America where he is reunited with his musical brothers in his hometown, Camposanto, in north-east Argentina.
Young Daniel Rosenfeld (b.1973) is a qualified director and film editor. He has worked as assistant director for Alejandro Agresti and has substantial experience in television production. In his film on Dino Saluzzi, Rosenfeld chooses to spotlight the creative process, well aware that he is entering a sphere that not even the artist can describe. Instead of the usual parade of talking heads, the director daringly chooses not to have any interviews with Saluzzi or others in the film at all. The music, situations and images are left to speak for themselves. Which is more than enough. Especially in a scene where Saluzzi, alone with his instrument directly facing the camera, “tells” the history of tango without words.
“Saluzzi is highly respected among Argentine musicians,” says Rosenfeld. “But he is not appreciated by large audiences. It’s like Astor Piazzolla. He was also relatively well-known, but people didn’t start loving him until after he died. Therefore, it was very important for me that I could make this film about Saluzzi while he is still alive.”
How did you get Dino Saluzzi interested in your project?
“I met him at a concert. While I was listening, I realized that through Saluzzi’s music I was actually feeling the story, that I had just read about in the program notes before the concert. It was a subjective experience of course, but I could feel his miserable childhood find stirring expression through the music. So after the concert, I went up to him and said that I wanted to make a film about him. I said I had no intention of making a biographical film about him or an educational film about the tango. I didn’t want to explain anything. He liked the idea, and two weeks later I was shooting the first scenes in Venice.”
How did you finance a film like that so quickly?
“Finding money was a big problem. Since the film’s theme is the creative process itself, it was very difficult to make a classic manuscript. And without any manuscript, no money. I knew what I didn’t want to do. But it was hard to articulate what I wanted to do. I had developed a basic concept before we started, but I didn’t work out the rest of the manuscript until we were filming in Europe. It was a stimulating way to work, because when you don’t have a manuscript, you have to be on your toes all the time. We were always there with the camera, and Saluzzi never knew when we were filming. We worked a lot on the sound, too. For every ten hours of filming, we have at least twenty-five hours of sound recording. Every evening the film crew gathered around the tape recorder to discuss the film’s structure.”
Rosenfeld’s film is shaped like a movement from Europe to Argentina. Along the way, Saluzzi works on a composition, and when he is reunited with his brothers in the northern province of Argentina in the last part of the film, they perform the finished piece of music together.
What do you want this structure to express about the relation between Europe and Argentina?
“Dino Saluzzi lives on the road. He travels through Europe, Japan and other places all year round. He misses his homeland. This absence may be a creative force for him, I don’t know. But it was interesting for me to divide the film into these two parts, the first in black and white, the second in colour. Although the camera may be closer to him in the first part, there’s still a distance because the communication happens through the music. In the second part, he fades slightly as a character, and the village and its inhabitants become a kind of main character instead. To me, the two halves illuminate each other.”
I thought the structure may have been a statement on the unique history of the tango as a musical form created by European immigrants in South America, then exported to Europe where it gets the seal of approval before finally returning to South America with renewed intensity?
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