Tango

1981, Zbigniew Rybczynski

Posted by John Martz, May 24, 2020

In a new era of social distancing, watching Zbigniew Rybczynski's Tango can be a bit of an uncomfortable experience. It begins with an empty room, but it fills up at an alarming rate as a cascading time loop introduces one new person after another.

It's a brilliant bit of choreography made all the more impressive that it was pieced together without the aid of a computer:

I had to draw and paint about 16,000 cel-mattes, and make several hundred thousand exposures on an optical printer. It took a full seven months, sixteen hours per day, to make the piece. The miracle is that the negative got through the process with only minor damage, and I made less than one hundred mathematical mistakes out of several hundred thousand possibilities.

After winning an Academy Award for Best Animated Short, Rybczynski stepped outside for a smoke and was denied re-entry from security, despite holding his newly-won Oscar. An altercation ensued and the director was arrested. His takeaway of the eventful evening: "success and defeat are quite intertwined."