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Okay, so I am not supposed to say anything about other user's comments,
I should mention that reading those comments is what lead me to write
this...I don't know if this is an enjoyable movie experience, but it is
nonetheless a triumph of cinema.
This film has very little to do with sex. It also has very little to do with the tango, and we might want to add it has little to do with Paris. Someone once told me this movie is about an American businessman. Out of curiosity, are all American's traveling in Europe businessmen? I think not. First of all, he was a boxer, a bongo player, he married a wealthy woman, but nowhere did I see this man as working for some corporation. This man had little money, and he didn't need a 'serious' career.
This film is about abuse; a parable about the overly masculine father who sexually abuses his own son; a child abused by his alcoholic parents; a widower who is abused by his animalistic but deadly honest wife. This movie is about a religious zealot for a mother-in-law in constant denial who shows more interest in her daughter's corpse than in her life. This movie is about an idealistic no-longer teenager who perhaps finds true love the only time in her life, but pays a terrible price. It is as though she has bitten from the forbidden fruit and found that love is an illusion.
To say Brando is superb misses the point. I simply know no other actor that could have pulled this off. His facial expressions are uncanny. It is a most fitting bookend to Street Car Named Desire. One simply cannot deny the final elevator scene. But unlike Streetcar, Brando portrays a vivid understanding of the sensitivity towards women and towards human existence that few men are capable of grasping, and few women could probably appreciate. Brando is himself. But Brando is himself because he understands his character, not because he plays himself.
This movie is an existential parody of the nature of society. It is a bitter reflection of human frailty and vanity. It is a tragedy of a man who has actually found a way to transcend his own suffering, who has somehow managed to cut through the illusions that all of us carry day-to-day. But with that knowledge, he finds himself utterly alone (as so many users here seem testament.)
I'm thinking of "Last Tango in Paris" today because Neznaia, a kind IMDb user, asked me to write about it and I promised I would. Now a dilemma. Shall I write as I remember the experience or shall I watch it again? Well I'm already here so I seem to have taken a decision. Butter, that was the key word that pushed crowds to line up outside the theaters all over the world. Over the years the film has been vilified as utter euro trash or acclaimed as one of the best films ever made. I think that the truth falls somewhere in the middle. Bertolucci was coming out of at least two certified masterpieces of political, social and cinematic achievement "Before the Revolution" and "The Conformist". Tango is something else altogether, cinema veritè photographed by Vittorio Storaro, a revolutionary artistic genius, Gato Barbieri's music and Marlon Brando giving himself totally in one of the most brilliant pieces of self indulgence ever put on film. Within the intellectual coldness of its intentions breaths a stunning melodrama of operatic proportions. As a side note let me tell you that legend has it that in the original script, the Maria Schnaider's character, was a boy. At the time an idea of the sort was too outrageous to even consider. Everybody was very sophisticated but not that sophisticated. Apparently the movie went on with a girl in the part but not even a coma was changed from the original. Now, look at the film again with that in mind and you will notice that everything, as if by magic, makes perfect sense. We are ask to justify Brando's first wild approach to Schnaider was an irrational reaction to the pain, the anger and confusion by his wife death. Well yes, but he is a man, she is a woman, they may be braking a few rules but the basics remain intact, unless, of course she wasn't a she. If they are a man and a girl above the age of consent why the charade of secrecy? Why she's never really dressed like a girl, always jackets and open neck shirts and why they never make love like a man and a woman, usually, do? A lot of fingers and butter and,talk. When they get to the tango scene Brando dances with a real woman while Maria Schnaider monkeys around them. And finally look at the end and tell me if doesn't make much more sense if she was a he. She could have explained everything, embarrassing perhaps I don't know, but perfectly normal. If she was a he, the son of a military man, the thing had an entirely different color. Impossible to admit or to explain for a boy. Their affair is not between two gay man but between two heterosexuals. That's the key, that's at the center of it all. A breaking of rules in the most intimate way. To go against what you have come to accept as your own nature. I may be wrong of course, but I don't think so. I will see it again as soon as I can and if I feel that this memory of the film is merely a product of what I may have been smoking at the time I will let you know. But, somehow, I don't think I will have to.
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.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
It was, in short, a film about sex and the way that human beings use
sex as a refuge, a release, and a weapon
The frank dialog, the nudity,
and the simulated sex were not gratuitously employed but were integral
to the theme of the film, and if the picture was not totally
successful, it was certainly unforgettable
Marlon Brando appears as a middle-aged Americanbut not the kind of American in Paris glorified by either George Gershwin or Ernest Hemingway... This is a man tormented by inner conflict... Brando's Paul between self-hatred over his wife's suicide and his feelings for Maria Schneider's Jeanne, she between her adoring documentary filmmaker fiancé (based wittily on Godard) and the taboo-breaking Paul...
The stark, empty flat that is the lovers' retreat from conventional society, and the cold, windy pavement where Paul screams his loathing for the world against the din of a passing trainconnects us with the mood of the film...
Eager to escape the oppressive walls of his dark life, Paul embarks on a very complete sexual experience with a willing young woman in which there is no history spoken, no promises of future liaisons, no ties of any kind with the outside...
The two lovers know nothing of each other, not even their names... Their affair is purely physical, and the barren apartment becomes, as Bertolucci intended, a world of debauchery on which is explored a catalog of behavior that seems more childish than kinky...
Jeanne is a child-woman... She asks what she should call Paul, and they proceed to give themselves names brought only out of grunts, growls and screeches... Paul's cruelty is not justified and perhaps this is what attracts the modish girl... Some scenes emotionally are so provocative that you experience a wide range of feelings... Paul never asks Jeanne a direct question, but is constantly framing her for his next experiment, besides he assaults her, humiliates her and pushes her over the edge... There is one great moment for the heroine when she refuses Paul's power play and is equally unimpressed by his new declarations of love... She insists: 'It's over!'
The film is beautifully shot... The cinematography is unique, somber, shadowy and painterly... It presents despair, and the music reinforce the despairing mood... The movie is also intensely erotic, intensely realistic, immensely disturbing... The extreme frankness makes faintly uncomfortable viewing, not only because of its sexual material but because of its exploration of our inner nature with true perspective... Hopefully, younger viewers can turn their minds back to a time when sex was mysterious and beautiful; dangerous and daring; not just easy and transitory... Sex nearly always implies intimacy, but doesn't always provide it...
'Last Tango in Paris' is one of the great explorations of cinema's visual possibilities Bertolucci camera's movements throughout the film characterize the rights steps of the tango which the two main characters execute at the climax of the film... We feel swept away by the beauty of the tango despite the tragic quality of the acts and events it escorts... The film does prove Bertolucci to be a true filmmaker capable of the audacity of Jean-Luc Godard and the distinctive style of Ingmar Bergman...
Bernardo Bertolucci's Last Tango in Paris is like any other piece of art; You get out of it only as much as you put into it. Many people saw this movie in the 1970's (and still see it today) as being pornography and nothing else. Others viewed it and took note of Brando's performance (how could you not?!?), and noticed much, much more than a mere "skin flick." Personally, I find it to be a very important piece of art. Why? Because it broke barriers! In art, barriers only exist so that they may be broken, and I know that sounds like some "liberal artsy BS," but I think it's true. Artists are always trying to get down to the basics of human existence, and, unfortunately, it's not always pretty. This film, I believe, portrays a few elements of the human experience. Passion is the first. Then, facades, our need to defend ourselves from vulnerability. Also, the film tries to show the circular nature of our lives (things end only to begin again). The passion is expertly exposed through the savage brutality that Brando brings to the performance, as only he knew how to. Many argue that this was Brando's finest performance, and I can see why. I don't know if I could ever pick one performance of his and say it was his best, but this would easily, easily be a prime candidate. In Last Tango in Paris, Marlon Brando pulls out all of the stops, almost abusing his freedom in the role. Yet, this is where the film gets truly intriguing. Is this an act? It is, at least in name, a performance, but, how much of it is a performance, and how much is a stream of consciousness therapy session? I have never seen an actor pour so much of himself out before a camera. Watching it, I couldn't help but wonder, "What must be going on behind his eyes?" How can a man reveal so much of who he is, knowing that it is being filmed to be viewed by millions? Brando's "performance" forces the audience to question is Marlon Brando the performer or the performance. We'll never know. Perhaps he didn't know. Perhaps that is how he could pull off the monumental performance that he did. It is quite possibly the greatest performance I have ever seen. The fact that I have to wonder whether his character, Paul, is the truth or an image is only testament to Brando's power. As far as the circular nature of things, we see a role-reversal between Maria Schneider and Marlon Brando. At the beginning, it is Brando who is confused, lost, driven mad by the toll that a past love has taken on him. Yet, at the end of the film, it is Schneider's Jeanne who cares not about names, identity, and personal histories. Her life is committed to distance and emotional isolation. Her mind has confined itself to that little apartment where intimacy knew no bounds, except the publicity of a painful outside world. A million questions could be asked about these two central characters. What was going on in their minds? Who was more fragile, the tormented Paul, or the seemingly carefree Jeanne? Who controlled the relationship? Was there control? Was there a relationship? This film, like all other great films, leaves us asking questions, not only about the characters we've seen, but about the characters we portray on a daily basis.
The acting of Marlon Brando is one of the major reasons to watch this
feature film. Brando for the first time in his career exhibits a physical
performance that matches the emotional intensity of his earlier films. Paul
like the lead male characters in A Streetcar Named Desire(1951) and On the
Waterfront(1954) is someone who behaves in an animalistic fashion. 1972 saw
Marlon Brando in a banner year with his performances in The Godfather and
Last Tango in Paris. It was the last great performance of Marlon Brando as
he hasn't done anything good(except Apocalypse Now) as
The actor shows plenty of emotion and human depth in his role. Some of the scenes with Maria Schneider are some of the most difficult things done by the actor. The scene where Paul lets out his anger and frustration out on his dead wife is a prime example of why Marlon Brando is a great actor. This sequence reveals some about the character of paul. Marlon does a convincing job during the erotic scenes.
The direction by Bernardo Bertolucci is fantastic. It seems that being an Assistent Director for Pier Paolo Pasolini had paid off in the making of Ultimo Tango a Parigi/Last Tango in Paris(1972). There are Pasolinian moments that are evident in many parts of the movie. Bertolucci spends more time creating a three dimensional chracter in Paul then he did on Jeanne. The erotic sequences are done by the director with finesse and style.
There is a contrast between Paul(Last Tango In Paris), and Vitto(The Godfather). First, Vitto is calm and cool while Paul is emotionally unstable. Second, Paul is sexually active while Vitto is sexually inactive. Third, Vitto concerns himself with the family structure and Paul is an individual. Finally, Paul is middle aged and somewhat in shape and Vitto is old and nearing death.
On the day of its release, Last Tango in Paris Stirred up an enormous uproar. This had nothing to do with the sex scenes itself but the content that propelled these scenes. It was banned in the director's native soil. One scene that caused a stir is the scene where Jeanne puts her hand in Paul's backside. Another scene that upset people is the infamous "Butteromy" Sequence.
Maria Schneider gives a couragous and emotionally difficult performance as Jeanne. This film had a negative effect on the actress as she later had a breakdown and spent some time in an asylum. In one interview, Maria Schneider discussed her displeasure with the director. She does a wonderful job in the scene where she describes her relationship with a cousin as a young girl. She does things that many well known actresses would be afraid to do.
The emotional level of the sex scenes are what caused such a scandal. The sex is not out of love but out of despair and the yearning for human contact. The "Butteromy" scene takes that notion to the extreme. What makes the sex scandalous is the fact that Paul and Jeanne treat it in a matter of fact way. It seems that Paul is Jeanne's sex toy as that's the way she views him.
Romance director, Catherine Breillit has an appearence in Last Tango in Paris(1972). The supporting cast are good in their perspective roles. Jean-Pierre Leaud is terrific in his portrayal of Jeanne's clueless beau. He would appear in another erotic themed feature called The Mother & the Whore(1973). Jean Pierre Leaud's character is the exact opposite of Paul.
Ultimo Tango a Parigi opens with images of a Francis Bacon painting. The characters are nothing but live paint figures of a Francis Bacon masterwork. The director was influenced by the works of the painter when he decided to do the film. The scene where Brando is crouched in a corner is a live reactment of one painting during the opening credits. Bacon's paintings like the feature look deep within the pits of the human soul.
Agnes Varda wrote some additional dialogue for this motion picture. Last Tango in Paris comes between two classics in The Conformist(1970), and 1900(1976). It is avilable in both a R and NC-17 version. The ending is ironic and tragic because Paul is on the verge of turning over a new leaf. The cinematography by Vittorio Storaro makes the camera another member of the cast.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I am happy I watched this movie before seeing all the reviews, so I
didn't have this preconceived "sex" attitude. TO me "Last tango in
Paris" is a special movie. I can watch it again and again and it will
remain as powerful as it was when I had watched it for the first time.
To me it is more that a movie. I saw it for the first time some 10
years ago as a teenager and I remember being mesmerized by the special
mood that pervaded the whole movie. And those images. Grey Paris, city
of loneliness, the lonely figure of Brando, the girl in a ridiculous
hat. Then, the sex in the empty apartment devoid of all signs of
normality, a strange relationship between two strangers, who have sex
and still remain as separate and alienated as two people can be. She,
young , curious, full of life, going to be married. Him, old,
disillusioned, in the end of his life-journey, tormented by the pain of
the loss of his wife who had brutally left him committing a suicide
without explanation, without a note. And so they meet in this naked
apartment, engage in the sex devoid of any tenderness, him, dominating
her, setting the rules for the game where there is no names, no
reality. And during those moments he escapes from the world around him,
from the suicide of his wife, from the pain of the existence. She is
strangely attracted to him, captivated by his power, lets herself be
part of this game. She lets him do whatever he likes with her, but she
knows she is free, she can leave this empty apartment at any moment.And
she does. She is young and returns back to the normal life with her
young fiancé. The last scenes of the dance and the chase are so
powerful. The old man making a mickey of himself in front of the
dancing crowd, playfully chasing the young girl who is visibly scared
up into that empty apartment where everything had started. That last
scene of him dying on the balcony like a stray dog is still haunting
me. There is so much of the existentialist despair in the movie and the
final release of that despair is so crude and powerful and beautiful in
Altogether it is a piece of art so close to the existentialist writers and painters of the 20th century. It is about human condition, about the hell of existence, about no escape. and at the same time it is so full of emotions, of sadness and fear, of pain, and it is so beautiful.
Bernardo Bertolucci's Last Tango in Paris simultaneously mocks and
mourns the human yearning for love and companionship. The movie is a
requiem for unrequited love, and a testament to the proclivity of
humans to surrogate love with lust when trapped in a maelstrom of
despondence, chagrin, and compunction. Bertolucci's purpose is not to
glorify carnality as a virtue or to scorn it as a vice, but is to use
it as an instrument to authenticate the veritable existence of a dark,
ugly, and bestial side of humanity, which is so often suppressed and
hypocritically denied in similar works on the subject. Bertolucci's
penchant for art is limitless and he uses it to full effect in order to
give the movie an aesthetic feel while simultaneously catering to the
movie's explorative, earthy, and unconventionally bold motifs.
Bertolucci uses his characters uncannily as a medium to foray into
unexplored realms of human psyche while unflinchingly projecting them
as objects of desire, disgust and depravity. Bertolucci pushes Brando
and Schneider to a limit where they are not only forced to compromise
their egos but also relinquish their pride, and I say that not as an
offence but as an appreciation for his talent as a movie-maker.
Renowned film critic Pauline Kael bestowed the film with the most
ecstatic endorsement of her career, writing, "Tango has altered the
face of an art form. This is a movie people will be arguing about for
as long as there are movies." American director Robert Altman expressed
unqualified praise: "I walked out of the screening and said to myself,
'How dare I make another film?' My personal and artistic life will
never be the same." Eminent critic Roger Ebert has added the film to
his "Great Movies" collection.
The movie presents an episode in the lives of two loners residing in Paris: Paul, a recently widowed, middle-aged American businessman, and Jeanne, a young, voluptuous, soon-to-be-married Parisian girl. The two accidentally meet up in an empty apartment available for rent, and a steamy affair ensues between the two on strictly anonymous basis. Paul is very discreet about his identity and whereabouts and even cajoles Jeanne to religiously follow the protocol. Paul sees Jeanne as a carnal surrogate for his deceased wife, while Jeanne finds in Paul a lover which her fiancé could never become. The two continue to meet and serve each other at regular intervals while also going about their regular business. Their sexually charged up affair, despite a disconnect at the emotional level, satiates them both beyond expectations, and resonates to the viewer an ineffable sense of frenzy and euphoria that holds him in a vice-like grip for the entire length of the movie. The dramatically botched, anti-climactic ending of the movie, which has been snubbed by critics, still manages to testify the axiomatic consistency of change in packing a punch stronger than the modern-day gimmicks.
Marlon Brando gives an inciteful, poignant, tour de force performance as the reclusive widower. Many people called Brando a chameleon, but I would call him a chameleon who hated his camouflage; a prodigy who detested his talent; a narcissist who abhorred himself for being a mortal. Brando as Paul is a cross between a sadist and a masochist. He uses every ounce of his talent to conjure up his menacing alter-ego. Driven by guilt and chagrin, Paul's sociopathic self is a nightmare for those around him. Roger Ebert wrote about Brando's performance: "It's a movie that exists so resolutely on the level of emotion, indeed, that possibly only Marlon Brando, of all living actors, could have played its lead. Who else can act so brutally and imply such vulnerability and need?" The scene in which Paul confronts the dead body of his wife, who has committed suicide, is probably the most powerful scene ever filmed in cinema. It not only depicts the complexities associated with Paul's character but also highlights the dichotomy he suffered owing to his dual emotions of rage and grief.
Maria Schneider is innocent, charming, voluptuous and pitiful in her portrayal of Jeanne, a Parisian girl whose life is devoid of true love. Schneider, being fully aware of her limitations as an actor, incredibly manages to give a performance that is singular and effective enough not to be adumbrated by Brando's sublime, over-the-top portrayal.
The cinematography of the movie is vivid, elaborative, and expressive and is well complemented by the movie's sensuously evocative background score.
PS. Last Tango in Paris is a profoundly disturbing case-study of human emotions and is a must for cineastes worldwide, but can only be savoured by eschewing bigotry, prejudice, and conservatism. 9/10
Bernardo Bertoluci's "Last Tango in Paris" is a beautiful art-house
movie that features one of Marlon Brando's finest performances. He
plays Paul, an enigmatic American drawn to France after the recent
suicide of his wife. While there, he encounters Jeanne, whom he soon
begins to have an affair with. However, they do not reveal anything
about themselves and the relationship is based solely on sex.
Jeanne is engaged to Tom, a film director making a documentary of sorts about her. She questions her own love for Tom as she finds herself more and more drawn to Paul.
"Last Tango in Paris" or "Ultimo tango a Parigi" was released in 1972 to much hoopla. Critics loved it but the American censors despised it and it somehow gained a reputation of being a "smut film." It's actually a deep and provocative statement about two people from different backgrounds who fall in love despite trying not to. Their anonymity with each other only makes it all the more difficult.
Brando delivers a stunning performance and Maria Schneider is quite convincing in what must have been a very demanding role.
This isn't a flawless film but it is very good and offers more than just the average "t&a" the genre has come to be known for.
"Last Tango in Paris" has been copied a few times over the years - most noticeably with films such as "9 1/2 Weeks" and "Intimacy." However, this is still one of the best "erotic" dramas out there.
Schneider's looks can dutifully encapsulate my true emotions to this
film. Occasionally she looks sexy and encaptivating, other times she
can look too pale and a little bland. That's exactly how Bertolucci's
helping of sexual cravings had me feeling after this film.
Habitually, Bertolucci's work eclipses genius - he is one of the few directors in world cinema that has an eye for definitive detail. He can capture such beautiful images, with such great vision, emotion, colour and panache that the viewer's sentiments are guided like few others in film-making. Like aforementioned, Schneider's face would be the perfect simile for this particular film. One scene the viewer is startled by the raw depth of the film, although slightly troubled by the explicit sex, but then all the viewer is treated to in the next scene is a terse and awkward moment which seems to have no correlation with the one that preceded it.
Naturally Brando's performance did help boost this film greatly, but that seems the film's very weakness - whenever he is off-camera it seems to struggle too much, it loses its power and prestige and becomes a little incoherent. This film undoubtedly has some powerful and poignant scenes that really can convey genuine sentiment and exude a tangible originality too; but it never really seems to shake off the loss of Brando's presence altogether.
For admirers of Bertolucci its a must, but for more neutral cineastes it would be advisable to have a more cautious approach when watching this film - to enjoy it, it would be paramount to expect this film to be an edifying, not an entertaining experience; its not a frivolous subject matter in any sense
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