A cleverly conceived but ultimately arid homage to Buenos Aires’ San Miguel Studios — a home-away-from-home during the ’40s for Spanish movie people exiled from Franco’s Spain — “Stolen Tangos” starts out subtle and credible but quickly over-complicates. Despite the energy of the thesps and the “Purple Rose of Cairo” echoes, pic also becomes monotonous. Result looks set to dance only in certain Spanish-lingo territories.
Martin (Liberto Rabal), an illegal immigrant in France, is writing a script set in ’40s Buenos Aires based on the people he knows, especially wannabe actress Alice (Sylvie Testud) and boss Lamblin (Guy Marchand). Alice is invited by Martin’s buddy, Octave (Juan Echanove), who has unexplained magic powers, to go back in time, where she finds herself inhabiting Martin’s script. When Alice refuses to come back to the present day, Martin follows her back in time and becomes her leading man. The time-tunnel motif is clumsily handled, much of the double-identity farce is unoriginal, and the expectations set up by the title are unfulfilled: there are few tangos, and they’re poorly performed. Testud and Echanove are engaging: the central perf from Rabal, however, is miserably flat.