Sunday, April 12, 2009

Last Tango In Paris (1972)

Note: This review was originally posted on a message board forum. I am reposting it here for archival purposes. It has been backdated to the date of its original posting.

Last Tango In Paris is a Bernardo Bertolucci classic, which received considerable controversy due to its depictions of "rough" sex. However, the film is notable in that, despite receiving an X rating (the then-equivalent of today's NC-17), it received an Oscar nomination (or two).

I commend Bernardo Bertolucci's lack of restraint in tackling issues of sexuality in his films (The Dreamers being a more recent example), in a more straightforward way compared to Hollywood, but not with the vulgar and soulless approach that pornography uses. Last Tango In Paris is a beautiful film, and its highlight is the intense character study, pulled off magnificently by Marlon Brando in the lead role. The subject of the film is the relationship between two complete strangers who bump into each other on a Paris street, and proceed to have a completely anonymous sexual relationship. It sounds pretty basic, I know, but the film is not just an excuse for the sex. The story is about these two people, who they are, and it explores the nature of their anonymous relationship - asking questions like, why is it so fulfilling to them?

The film itself is admittedly slow, there's not really much in the way of action, but that's just the type of film it is. There's some mystery in it that I found very intriguing - in the beginning these two characters are complete strangers, not just to each other, but to the viewer as well. And so, as you move through the film, these pieces of identity are thrown at you, and you have to piece together just who these people are, their motivations, etc. And it's pretty tragic, the details of this man's life.

Definitely an interesting film, but I felt it was lacking something, to really attach myself to it. And I think that something was the fact that, despite how intriguing Marlon Brando's character was, and even how cute the girl in the equation was, their relationship kind of confused me. I think I can generally understand the appeal of the anonymity of the whole situation, but the sex scenes were some of the least erotic I've ever seen - I mean, one of them, the infamous butter scene, was literally anal rape (it's not explicit, but it is uncomfortable). I mean, I guess I can't really understand why the girl kept coming back, and how she could have fallen for him...

Anyway, the movie ends kind of tragically, and hell, the character study was fascinating, and it's worth a watch for Marlon Brando's performance alone, I think. Of the Bertolucci films I've seen so far, though, I enjoyed The Dreamers much more.

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