I couldn’t help but be reminded of Sally Potter’s 1997 The Tango Lesson. A woman, an artist, starts from a blank canvas. There is an empty, large space of floor waiting to be filled with movement, and large, white sheets of paper ready to be filled with screenplay. Her creative process is two-directional; some days are spent walking outside in the world, observing, receiving, wondering, solving mysteries. Some days it comes from within, reading a book while slowly rocking an ordinary chair back and forth, or imaging a a vivid scene in color, of women in jewel-tone dresses descending a flight of steps. We see her thoughts on her face, her gestures as she connects ideas in her mind, her eyes flitting here and there as she notices and absorbs.
She works and loves or loves and works with a man who is also an artist. His vision is uncompromising, there is no room for other options or ideas. His single-mindedness makes him attractive to artists and critics who see this as a sign of purity. He is feral in this endeavor. He is also single-minded about the woman, the artist. He wants something specific from her, something grand and unambiguous. First he invades her space, but romantically and humorously, taking up more of her world. Then he requires complete bodily submission. In The Tango Lesson, Pablo wants Sally to give up her steps, her turns and glides to him – he moves he around, decides her directions, her pauses, her rhythm. This, he thinks, is the only way for their combined artistry, their partnership, to succeed. He must only lead, she must only follow. In Pendular, Ela wants Ele to have his child. This, he thinks, is the ultimate way to synthesize their individual talents, to fully express their partnership and commitment.
And so they try. They create, collaborate, fight, make love, separate, come togehter, and fight again. But she is an artist, too, and though she is open to the world, she will not compromise, either. She has a vision in her mind, a work of art or a life to lead, where the dance is between equals. She will go at it alone, if she has to.
Pendular, dir. Julia Murat, 108 mins. Bubbles Project, et al., 2017. In Portuguese.
This film screened at the 43rd Seattle International Film Festival, 18 May through 11 June 2017.
More by Julia Murat:
Found Memories (2011)