It’s quite an incredible anxiety every time i watch Bernardo Bertolucci’s Last Tango in Paris. It seems to me as though it gets harder to think as it should be more perplexing for the women and still the larger anxiety to be a man when in need of sexual desire of concealment for what happens to both Maria Schneider and Marlon Brando in their dreadful voluptuous experience ….. Is that vanquishing, or draining or bleeding……thou will function any moment – the countdown is watched in its opening sequence. I think it’s reasonable to say that the audiences were in a state of shock, because Last Tango in Paris has the same kind of hypnotic excitement, the revealing bodies and their primitive force, and yes the same plunge of prodding eroticism.
Last Tango in Paris is a 1972 Franco-Italian romantic erotic drama film directed by Bernardo Bertolucci. This film mocks and mourns the human yearning for love and companionship. This movie upon its release was very controversial because of obscene content, offensive to public decency, and characterized by infuriating pan sexualism for its own end, catering to the lowest instincts of the libido, and on and on. Not even a publicist for United Artists (distributor of the film) could have written such an enticing blurb for the film. The censors were very threatening and distinguished this movie as a porn wall almost everywhere it was released. It stars Marlon Brando, Maria Schneider, and Jean-Pierre Léaud.
Bertolucci’s movie came at a personal and career crossroads for Brando, and maybe he knew that. It ended up being his pre-eminent film, certainly the most radical, and his work in it stands apart from everything else he had done. This movie caused controversy at the New York Film Festival in the same year of its release, also received critical acclaim as a serious and important film. The New York screening was followed by several lurid and inaccurate articles in some of the tabloids then, claiming that the film contained ‘a series of blistering sequences guaranteed to knock the bottom out of the backstreet porno market.
This movie is about Paul, a middle-aged American hotel owner mourning his wife’s suicide, meets a young, engaged Parisian woman named Jeanne at an apartment that both are interested in renting. Paul takes the apartment after they begin an anonymous sexual relationship there. He insists that neither of them shares any personal information, not even given names. The affair continues on until one day Jeanne arrives at to the apartment and finds that Paul has packed up and left without warning.
Paul later meets Jeanne on the street and says he wants to renew the relationship. He tells her of the recent tragedy of his wife. As he tells his life story, they walk into a tango bar, where he continues telling her about himself. The loss of anonymity disillusions Jeanne about their relationship. She tells Paul she does not want to see him again. Paul, not wanting to let Jeanne go, chases her back to her apartment, where he tells her he loves her and wants to know her name.
Jeanne takes a gun from a drawer. She tells Paul her name and shoots him. Paul staggers out onto the balcony, mortally wounded, and collapses. As Paul dies, a dazed Jeanne mutters to herself that he was just a stranger who tried to rape her, that she did not know who he was, as if in a rehearsal, preparing herself for questioning by the police
Last Tango in Paris is a consistently enjoyable but undistinguished movie. Brando’s performance is a real delight; Paris is beautifully filmed, and the whole of the narrative is infused with a delicious sadness. Unfortunately, the movie is never particularly idiosyncratic. It is, in fact, a well-made but very different undertone which speaks about the requiem for unreturned love, a witness to the tendency of humans to surrogate love with lust when trapped in a turbulence of despondence, chagrin, and guilt. Bertolucci’s purpose in Last Tango in Paris 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 most works that deal with the subject. Bertolucci’s penchant for art is limitless and he uses it to full effect in order to give Last Tango in Paris an aesthetic feel while simultaneously catering to the movie’s explorative, earthy, and unconventionally bold motifs. In Last Tango in Paris, 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.
The director does, nonetheless, effectively and subtly evokes Paul’s sorrow. By presenting only crumbs of evidence about his past and no more than hints of his inner life, Bertolucci prevents the movie from degenerating into a mere history or psychological study of a fictional character. We are told all we need to know to feel Paul’s terrible sadness. We see how his desperate misery overwhelms his passion, and how his commonly fierce, expressively infertile encounters with Jeanne are all conversant by his grief. The emotions evoked by this skillful approach are potent and deeply affecting.
The movie is very deceptive, the aptitude of those vicarious passion and the ability to stir such moods are buoyed up by the skills of the actors. Brando’s performance is surprisingly subtle and consistently enjoyable. I am just little cautious about Brando’s work ever since his “on the waterfront’, but he is engaging in Last Tango in Paris. Schneider is pleasing to watch, especially brings her innocence and momentous inclinations brings her character with those girlish charm.
The opening sequence of Last Tango takes place on the Pont de Bir-Hakeim, which Bertolucci had used in the first scene of The Conformist. It crosses the Seine south of the Eiffel Tower and west of the city and has two levels, with Metro trains traveling overhead from an elevated station. Our first glimpse of Brando is as he screams out, “fucking god!” against the roar of the train above him. The mad rush of those trains throughout the movie is a reminder of his frequent rushes of emotion.
The film’s highpoint seem to be a grey, I mean the conclusion, which looks quite abrupt, although feelings of profound sorrow saturate the whole of the movie, and the impact of the conclusion is consistent with such feelings, the events depicted seem arbitrary and overdone. It is almost as if Bertolucci simply could not think of a better way to resolve the narrative.
Last Tango in Paris had opened smack in the middle of the so-called sexual revolution. Feminism was blossoming; the gay rights movement was on the rise; there were nude encounter groups and sex clubs and open marriages. Last Tango followed on the heels of such other controversial films as Carnal Knowledge, Midnight Cowboy, and A Clockwork Orange. Last Tango seemed to glorify the idea that sex can be impersonal; sex is no longer sacred or even dangerous. Many feminists despised the movie and thought it was chauvinistic. In a way, Last Tango in Paris is an enjoyable diversion…..and fourty years later still fresh in the minds of that sexual turbulence, which I feel is a worthy prize.
- Story & Directed by Bernardo Bertolucci
- Produced by Alberto Grimaldi
- Written by Bernardo Bertolucci & Franco Arcalli.
- The French dialogues written by Agnès Varda
- Starring: Marlon Brando; Maria Schneider & Jean-Pierre Léaud
- Music by Gato Barbieri
- Cinematography: Vittorio Storaro
- Editing by Franco Arcalli & Roberto Perpignani
- Studio: PEA Predozioni Europee Associate S.A.S; Les Productions Artistes Associes S.A.
- Distributed by: United Artists
- Release dates; 14 October 1972
- Running time:129 minutes (original NC-17/X-rated version)
- Country: France & Italy
- Language: English and French