A tangled tango tale

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 26 October, 1995, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 26 October, 1995, 12:00am

LEONARD Schradner's Naked Tango (Pearl, 1.20 am) takes itself so seriously it's hard not to laugh at it. Everything is dark, bleak and deeply symbolic. It's the kind of film you have to grow a beard and be depressed for.

It was based on an idea by Kiss of the Spiderwoman novelist Manuel Puig. Schradner - who wrote the screenplay for Kiss of the Spiderwoman - looks at the underbelly of life in Buenos Aires in the 1920s through metaphorically-tinted glasses.

It's luridly directed and acted, and much too morbid to interest mainstream audiences.

The story was inspired by, but not based upon the work of Puig. It concerns a bored wife (Mathilda May), who assumes the identity of a dead woman, marries a dubious nightclub owner, and falls in love with a tango-dancing gangster (Vincent D'Onofrio).

With all its pretensions, Naked Tango never really gets close to revealing anything to its audience about Buenos Aires in the 20s, the tango or infidelity. Any meaning the screenplay might have had to begin with is clouded by the trendy direction. The tango is indeed a metaphor for life, but why? IN La Double Vie De Veronique (Pearl, 9.30 pm) two women (one Polish, one French, both played by Irene Jacob) subtly affect each other's lives while remaining total strangers. There is a supernatural premise at work in the plot, without which the screenplay might only have been fit for a half-hour teleplay.

As it is, director Krzysztof Kieslowski stretches it to an almost oppressive 11/2 hours. The film has enough going for it to make it worthy of the cult audience it found. Jacob deserves much of the credit for its success, giving two luminous performances.

IT goes without saying that any film starring Madonna, with the exception of the bright and breezy Desperately Seeking Susan, is arthouse fare gone wrong. Dangerous Game (World, 9.30 pm) has all the usual sexual and sado-masochistic elements, with Madonna cast as the nymphomaniac.

The story, and there barely is one, concerns a film director (Harvey Keitel, badly wasted) who becomes involved with his leading lady (Madonna). It might have been an object lesson in the pitfalls of amorality, but instead Dangerous Game turns into the Playboy channel meets Silence of the Lambs.

On video and laser disc you can delight over the original uncensored director's cut. The watered-down television version has much of the kinkiness removed.

THE action-packed crime saga Corleone (World, 12.40 am) might have been more action-packed had they put some kinkiness in. Claudia Cardinale is the siren, but doesn't have much to do other than peddle her Latino pout.

Guiliano Gemma and Francisco Rabal are two childhood friends born on the wrong side of the tracks who become adult enemies as they both try to secure a better life for themselves, one by starting a peasant revolution and the other by joining the mob.

The film's lesson seems to be that the mob is the best route. That's where the money is.

THIS evening's proliferation of average films brings us to that trusty port in a storm, Sir David Attenborough, his blue safari shirt, and The Private Life of Plants (Pearl, 8.30 pm). Rattan palms and English oaks are made to seem infinitely more interesting than anything Madonna has to offer. This is the penultimate episode, and also features tiny algae, Californian pines and tropical forest figs.

FILMS on Cable Movie Channel: High and Low (11 pm). Interesting if rather gloomy Japanese version of the light American thriller by Ed McBain, told with all the style you would expect from director Akira Kurosawa. A wealthy shoe manufacturer's chauffeur's son is kidnapped by mistake, posing a moral dilemma for the tycoon.