Review: Piazzolla, the Years of the Shark

Fishing for sharks and music.

by Iñaki Oñate

Piazzolla, los años del tiburón (Piazzolla, the Years of the Shark, 2018) starts with the moving image of the  Mar del Plata sea and the sound of an old recorded interview in which we listen to the voice of master musician Astor Piazolla. He explains the parallelism between playing his music live and fishing for sharks, his two favorite activities, saying they both demand immense physical exertion but offer an intense feeling of life and bliss.

He then sentences that the day he is not able to do any of these things is the
day life will be over. With a clean and simple narrative director Daniel Rosenfeld tells us the story of the man who changed the way people play and listen to tango just as Miles Davis would do with jazz and Igor Stravinsky with classical music.

What makes the film so engaging is that the main tools of such narrative are old family films and recorded interviews between Astor Piazzolla and his eldest daughter Diana, both deseased. In a sort metaphysical triangle these old recordings and images have a conversation with us spectators. As a living intermediary we have Piazzolla’s surviving son Daniel who serves as an anecdotal contributor to the story, adding a more intimate and nostalgic layer to the movie.

The childhood in New York, the landmark meeting with Carlos Gardel, the return to Buenos Aires and the insertion into the world of tango orchestras, the musical mutation in Piazzolla’s composition, his struggles against a society who refused to recognize his genius… all these well-known items are there but complete with more personal elements that give the myth even more power, such as the exploration of Piazzolla’s father, who made him play the bandoneón since very little as if he were capable of seeing the future of his son, and how Piazzolla wrote his classic “Adiós Nonino” in its entirety in the thirty minutes that followed the news of his father’s passing.

For Piazzolla and tango fans, this film is mandatory viewing; for artists it is a lesson in persistence, a lesson in fighting against yourself, against your society, against immediate failure, against anything that might try to convince you to give up your dreams. Piazzolla was a fighter who was able to catch sharks at the same time as he was able to catch some of the most beautiful notes of the 20th century.

IñaIñaki Oñate / Writer (Quito, Ecuador – 1988) Iñaki resides in Buenos Aires, where he studied film directing at Universidad del Cine. His short films have been part of the official selection at the New York, La Habana and Cannes festivals.  He’s currently developing his first feature film with his own independent production company, Undergofilms. He also works in music and art illustration.

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