The Last Tango in Paris is a film that has raised eyebrows for over 35 years now. Marlon Brando was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actor, Director Bernardo Bertolucci, nominated for a Best Director award would later win, like Brando Academy Awards for his respected category, and the actress Maria Schneider would have her life changed forever. It seems that as the years moved on that both Scheider and Brando would have all kinds of regrets for doing this film, even at times, expressing hate and resentment towards Bertolucci, saying he abused them, and manipulated the scenes in the movie which would help in many ways, bring about the sexual revolution and change the perspective of sexuality in movies. Last Tango in Paris was banned in many countries, and later on a subdued version was created to bring the X rated film down to an R rating to garnish potentially more viewers. The X version still garnished respect, or spoils from many around the world, for some branding it a work of genius, and for others, a tool to be used to perpetuate the religious argument against movies.
The Last Tango follows the sexual exploits between two unnamed individuals who find each other while looking at an apartment flat in Paris. The American, played by Brando has just lost his wife to suicide and the female, played by Schneider is working on a movie being filmed with her own love interest who wants to marry her. At first The Last Tango appears to be a sex filled movie intent on breaking barriers and taking us to places we may have never discovered on the movie screen. The acts of sex are explicit as is the nudity of actress Maria Schneider who would swear off ever doing nudity again after her experiences in this film which she would state later on, took her to a point where she would shed tears over some of the scenes filmed with Brando. In one rape scene, she would state that the tears shed in the scene were all too real. As the movie transpires, primarily through sex scenes, we see the development of the characters as we find out about them and their perversions. The characters develop in a snowball style throughout the movie with some tight direction, and unique perspective that mixes in the story with French in English subtitles, along with various scenes spoken in English. Even this transition of languages and subtitles, keeps the viewer glued to even the most difficult scenes to watch.
While there are aspects in filmmaking that are worthwhile, the subject matter is still difficult to watch, and appreciate. I had always wanted to see this movie but had never done so. The release of the Blu-ray DVD opened up the doors to watch what many consider one of the most influential films of all time. Unfortunately, the Blu-ray had little to anything to offer but more on that later.
While the story of The Last Tango in Paris is well known, I will assume, that many, like I, have not seen the movie. What I will say is this, all through the movie the lack of discovery in each others character is of key importance. It is only towards the conclusion of the film that the Brando character starts to share of his life in detail for various reasons. It is also here, that the dreams and illusions of the other character looses confidence in her experiences, and in the character played by Brando. This builds to a conclusion that may surprise many, but leaves an impact on the viewer despite what their position is of the explicit nature of the film.
There are many things many can take from this film despite its strong sexual content. One of the clear factors is the role of sex in relationship. While there will be, and has been, in part due to this movie, debate as to the appropriateness and place of sex, there is no denial of the role it plays in the development of relationship between the individuals involved in sexual activity with each other. There is also no doubt as to the harm and danger of unwanted and inappropriate sexual contact, not just in the abusive nature of sex, but in the relationship developed among those involved in the act together. In a brutal way, we see this happen in The Last Tango in Paris. We see sexual activity for the intent of self pleasure and for perverted reasons as opposed to the act of love. Yet, despite this, we also see the magnetic draw of relationship between individuals when sex is involved. Unfortunately, despite the desire to keep the act as a form of self serving pleasure, it does not take away from the feelings and emotions that develop. The Last Tango in Paris details that concept quite well. All too often, many may see the examples in The Last Tango in Paris as extreme. I challenge that while parts of it may be extreme, it is also in many ways more prevalent in today’s world than many either realize, or choose to accept. I would also challenge, the dangers and horrors that can come about are also just as possible today, as they are presented in this film. I am a part of a faith system that respects sex as an act of love. It is a beautiful gift to be respected and shared with one you love. In The Last Tango in Paris, we see a portrayal of what can happen when sex is encountered in a way outside of ultimate love.
I didn’t especially like The Last Tango in Paris. In fact, if not watching it for review purposes I would have turned it off. While it is still deserving of the now NC-17 rating, it is not the pornography that some have presented it to be. I am not saying it is not pornographic in various ways, but it certainly falls far from the ‘Porno’ category. I do think there are things to appreciate in the film. The acting by Brando is seeing one of our former masters at work. This is a film where, like his style or not, Bertolucci got things out of his actors that would impact them for the duration of their lives. While they didn’t say much positive about Bertolucci, his ability to get them to that place as an actor is quite noteworthy. That is not to condone, or destroy his work, it is just a notation.
I must also conclude with making a comment on this DVD in regards to purchase. Personally, I could in no way recommend the purchase of this product, but not because of the sexual content, but the aspect that the DVD Blu-ray concepts give absolutely no benefit to the purchase of this film in this format. The special features are practically non existent, the visual quality is not improved on at all, and the navigation system of the DVD is confusing and difficult to even find. In that regard, while some may appreciate the DVD itself, the Blu-ray version is in my opinion a total waste of money. As to the movie itself, despite the historical nature of the film, the accolades it has received, neither can I recommend it. I personally believe there are better films, dealing with the same subject, without the explicit sexual content. The scenes were disturbing enough for the actors involved for them to not recommend the film; I find it difficult to go against their wishes. Of course if looking to own a historical work, then maybe you want this as there is little to no doubt of the historical contributions this film made. As for me, I desire no last tangos with a temporary, non productive purpose. I prefer instead, relationships that last a lifetime, and for some, quite possibly, an eternity.
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