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Zbigniew Rybczyński’s TANGO

A friend introduced me to the world of Polish filmmaker, Zbigniew Rybczyński a few years back and I was so blown away that to to this day, my gratitude is such that should said friend kill my family, I’d probably have to forgive him. The short films made by Rybczyński during his stint with Poslish animation studio,  Se-ma-for, he produced some of the most mind-blowing short films I’ve ever seen, including the film in question, TANGO.

I’m not easily seduced by technical virtuosity, but I believe TANGO deserves some sort of exemption due to the single-minded audacity of the production. Here’s Rybczyński’s description of the film, including some staggering technical details:

“Thirty-six characters from different stages of life – representations of different times – interact in one room, moving in loops, observed by a static camera. I had to draw and paint about 16.000 cell-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. In the final result, there are plenty of flaws ® black lines are visible around humans, jitters caused by the instability of film material resulting from film perforation and elasticity of celluloid, changes of colour caused by the fluctuation in colour temperature of the projector bulb and, inevitably, dirt, grain and scratches.”

– Zbig Rybczynski –Looking to the Future – Imagining the Truth,” in FranÐois Penz, Maureen Thomas, Cinema& Architecture. Mþliús, Mallet-Stevens, Multimedia, BFI, London, 1997

Rather than being an avant garde curio, TANGO won the 1983 Oscar for best short film, which prompted a move to New York where he went on to direct music videos from some of the biggest artists of the day like Mick Jagger, Yoko Ono, John Lennon and Lou Reed. So we’re talking a pretty heavy hitter here.

Without further adieu, please enjoy Zbigniew Rybczyński’s, TANGO:


You can buy DVDs of Rybczyński’s work here.

Matthew Revert 


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