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.