Scent of a Woman

is a classic 1992 drama starring the legend Al Pacino.

It’s actually a remake of the 1974 Italian film Profumo di donna. It tells the tale of Frank (Pacino), a drunken and blind veteran who is looking to live it up for what he believes will be the last time in his life. An unsuspecting young man, Charlie, ends up getting hired to take care of him over Thanksgiving break for some easy money, but little does he know, Frank will be whisking him away to New York City.

At one point in the movie, while the two are in an upscale New York City restaurant, they happen upon a beautiful woman named Donna. Frank begins to flirt with her, and he asks her if she knows the tango. She responds that she always wanted to learn, but her boyfriend thought it was “hysterical.” Clearly, her man is a rube who doesn’t understand the power of the dance!

Frank puts on the charm and asks her if she wants to learn the tango right there in the dining room. They don’t have their tango shoes, and she’s not wearing her tango dress, but that won’t stop them.   Donna is reluctant at first, afraid she might make a mistake. Frank gives her a wink and tells her,

“No mistakes in the tango, Donna. Not like life. It’s simple, that’s what makes the tango so great. If you make a mistake, get all tangled up, just tango on.”

Now, personally, what makes the tango great is the passion on display and the steamy romance that permeates each step. Even when the old drunken veteran Frank, who up to this point was devoid of much charm, is able to bring the heat with this traditional Argentine dance. Frank has been depressed and living his life cooped up in his home, but even he cannot resist the thrill of the tango. The light returns to his eyes as he enjoys the beautiful feeling of dancing with a gorgeous woman. Generally, when a Hollywood movie throws in a tango scene, it tends to be a little lackluster. It doesn’t quite capture the true beauty of the Argentine tango, and instead just has the actors flashily posing.

Al Pacino, however, really brings the style and flair. Sure, it’s a bit dramatic and showy - amped up for the Hollywood screen - but it utilizes genuine tango dance moves. They begin with the rocking cote, bust out some counter-crossing ochos, and eventually end with a pivot exit from a side dip. It’s a sight to behold, and it’s a perfect addition to an incredible film.

Pacino actually won his first Academy Award for the movie - perhaps his skillful tango impressed the judges?

Later on in the film, during the climax, Frank is resigned to killing himself. He is traumatized from losing his eyesight in the army - he actually blinded himself after he made a drunken mistake involving a grenade. Charlie wrestles a gun away from Frank, and tells him that life is like a tango - “if you get all tangled up, just tango on.”

It’s a really beautiful moment, and the fact that the joy of the tango is able to pull a man from the brink of darkness shows just how great the dance really is.

no mistakes in Tango