Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Last Tango In Paris(Marlon Brando, Maria Schneider)

Director: Bernardo Bertolucci
Starring: Marlon Brando, Maria Schneider

Ever wonder what goes on in the mind of a middleaged american expat as he goes through a midlife crisis? Then watch Bernardo Bertolucci's Last Tango In Paris and prepare to be blown away with awe and disgust. Not for the faint of heart, this movie delves into some of the darkest places of the post 50's American male psyche. Marlon Brando is simply so amazing in this movie in terms of his viscerality and unabashed emotional frankness.


Paul(Marlon Brando), an aging american expat who lives in France is trying to figure out what to do with his life after his French wife has commited suicide. He is left stuck with the burden of living in their apartment building surrounded by everything that reminds him of his life with her. So monsieur Paul decides to rent out a flat across the street where he can get away. The only problem is that the flat is also rented out by a young french student actress named Jeanne(Maria Schneider) who is looking for a flat to share with her young filmmaker/fiance. Both Paul and Jeanne recognize the desire in eachother for human connection and an escape from life's realities and become lovers. The only condition is that, at Paul's insistance, they never reveal eachother's names.

In their cloistered world, the two are able to explore and reveal themselves to each other in a way that is simply impossible to do in the outside world. They let it all hang out... the good, the bad, and the ugly. The question of this movie is whether or not this relationship will survive in the outside world. What will happen?

Why is this movie Flippin' awesome?:

OK. This movie is not for everyone. It is pretty slow, and rather dark. The overall tone of the story is sad, brooding and somewhat lethargic. Then there is that infamous "butter scene". The story is about people bearing their deepest, darkest souls to each other and these people are not exactly happy well-adjusted people.


This movie has some of the most visceral, relaxed acting ever to be seen on film since the invention of the film camera. There is a monologue that Marlon Brando delivers to his dead wife where he just goes to pieces. It is quite rare to see such raw footage on film. I would have to say that it is the most emotionally raw speech I have ever seen delivered on film.

Maria Schneider is good too playing across Marlon Brando. She captures the spirit of a disillusioned precocious young girl who gets in over her head. Years later, she would say in interviews that she regretted doing the film, especially the "butter scene"(which was a last minute improvisation added to the film). She also said that, to her frustration, her professional acting career would never outlive her performance in that role.

In fact Marlon Brando, too, would look on the filming of that movie with ambivalence saying that it was the most painful experience he had to endure in his acting career and from which he learned to guard against investing too personally in a role. He too felt rather hoodwinked by the director, Bertolucci, saying that he felt raped and manipulated on set.

As awful as it sounds for the actors, this translates into really amazing performances for audiences to watch. Both Brando and Schneider give gritty performances that are more exposed and raw than you have ever seen in your life!

In Summation:

Last Tango in Paris is an ugly film. But it is a sorta ugliness mixed with beauty. The kind that you can see when you watch someone picking their nose unawares. The film is a milestone for cinema in the intimacy that is captured on screen. A must see for fans of film and acting alike!

Other films you might like if you liked this film:

Apocalypse Now, Streetcar Named Desire, The Libertine, 2046

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