In This Review

Tango: The Art History of Love
Tango: The Art History of Love
By Robert Farris Thompson
Vintage, 2006, 384 pp

A noted historian of African art traces the roots of the Argentine tango to the Afro-Argentines who populated Buenos Aires toward the end of the nineteenth century and back to the central African kingdom of Kongo. Thompson rescues tango from a one-dimensional tristesse, mining in its working-class origins emotions of defiance, freedom, self-control, humor, love, and redemption. Although his elegant treatise will irritate Eurocentric Argentines, it is uplifting and timely in its rediscovery of the diverse, transnational cultural heritage of Latin America. Separate chapters expertly dissect tango as literature, music, and dance. Thompson's amusing review of Hollywood's treatment of tango savages Rudolph Valentino (The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse) and Bernardo Bertolucci (Last Tango in Paris), gives solid grades to Jack Lemmon (Some Like It Hot) and Madonna (Evita), and extols Robert Duvall (Assassination Tango). We are also reminded that Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger performed a credible, "sexy" tango in True Lies.