By Owen Gleiberman
Updated February 26, 1999 at 05:00 AM EST

Spanish director Carlos Saura has been making dance dramas for nearly two decades. Nice as it would be to report that he has grown more refined in his technique, the opposite appears to be true: He has moved from the fierce, enraptured intimacy of ”Blood Wedding” (1981) to the scattershot art-imitates-life noodlings of the Oscar-nominated ”Tango.” The dance sequences in this new work are visually ravishing, many of them shot in color-saturated silhouette, yet the slashing erotic life force of the tango fails to come through. (Saura appeared more at home with the stylized foreplay of flamenco.) This movie about a Buenos Aires director (Miguel Àngel Solà) who, in the midst of making a movie about the tango, falls for the exquisite dancer mistress (Mia Maestro) of his financier (Juan Luis Galiardo) is an oddly lackluster string of forbidden-love clichés. The soddenness of Saura’s temperament wet-blankets the vitality of the dance; the movie feels like the work of a Bob Fosse who couldn’t get out of bed in the morning.