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While looking for an apartment, Jeanne, a beautiful young Parisienne, encounters Paul, a mysterious American expatriate mourning his wife's recent suicide. Instantly drawn to each other, they have a stormy, passionate affair, in which they do not reveal their names to each other. Their relationship deeply affects their lives, as Paul struggles with his wife's death and Jeanne prepares to marry her fiance, Tom, a film director making a cinema-verite documentary about her. Written by
Erich Schneider <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Widely denounced as obscene upon its release and unjustifiably notorious for two of its scenes, Bernardo Bertolucci's 'Last Tango in Paris' is a savage story of lust and sexual debasement.
Marlon Brando delivers a ferocious performance as Paul, a middle-aged American expatriate tormented by his wife, Rosa's recent suicide, her infidelities and his failure to understand their relationship. In meeting a 20 year old girl, Jeanne, played by Maria Schneider, in an empty apartment, Paul hopes to form a relationship purely on his own terms and at his own pace, i.e. one he can understand fully. He insists on a new form of relationship, so basic that even their names were kept secret from each other, where she submitted to his every desire, where he could punish himself and relieve his despair and anger towards his wife by punishing Jeanne. Paul's only other interest is in Marcel (Massimo Girotti), Rosa's lover, for whom he has a curious respect and maybe a desire to obtain through him a better understanding of his own wife.
Despite his overpowering talent, Marlon Brando has often shown poor judgement in his choice of projects and has frequently trudged through films with no apparent effort or interest. In 'Last Tango in Paris' he gives everything and produces a performance of unrivalled force. Unfortunately the obvious improvisation in the film prevents the character of Paul from staying within check as he gradually becomes too much like Marlon Brando in the second half of the film. Nonetheless, when Brando is off-screen the film becomes hollow in comparison and is replaced by Jeanne's relationship with her fiance, an annoyingly pretentious TV director (Jean-Pierre Leaud).
This is a truly unique film and Bertolucci successfully highlights the romance in an affair that is fundamentally destructive. Brando's performance is remarkably powerful and intense, eclipsing every other player and dominating the entire film.
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