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 <email@example.com>
When Paul monologues with his dead wife lying in bed, you can see the actress chest moving up and down at a breathing rate. See more »
[with his hands over his ears at the overwhelming sound of a passing train]
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For its original UK cinema release the BBFC suggested cuts to dialogue during the scissors scene and a heavy reduction of the infamous sodomy scene, though the former was rescinded when it was decided that the cuts would be difficult to make without ruining the scene. Instead a proposed cut of 20 secs was required to the sodomy scene to remove shots of Paul smearing butter on Jeanne's buttocks and some overhead shots of sexual thrusting. The latter was also waived following an appeal from the director and instead a mere 10 sec cut was made to the butter smearing. When the OPA (Obscene Publications Act) was extended to cover films a few years later BBFC censor James Ferman waived the cinema cut, and all post-1978 releases (including TV showings) have been the fully uncut version. See more »
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 this.
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.
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