Anna Karina in Pierre le Fou


Not a Real Tango

Last Tango in Paris, (Bernardo Bertolucci,  Italy 1972)
Brando plays Paul. a grieving widower, consoling himself with distractions for a wife who betrayed him. Bertolucci places him an an empty apartment with red stained rugs and dirty windows. Here he brings a young woman he acquires like a sportscar, to show off, and to play with.

Jeanne is a budding actress disenchanted with her moviemaker boyfriend who frames everything with his thumb and forefinger. She is intrigued by the mystery of a new relationship which is clearly obsessive/compulsive--there are no names, only games.

Underneath this all is a man's raw grief. Brando tearfully smears clean his dead wife's overdone face, and tosses the stinking funeral wreaths. In this moment, and in the end when he sports a silly smile on his face while saluting Jeanne, he is real. For Schneider the film initiated a slew of roles as female lead. Taken under the wing of Bridget Bardot, her dream was to work in arthouse cinema with auteurs--and this was her most memorable role. The film acquired attention for the addictive urgency of their sexual entango-ment, and the film was temporarily banned in several US cities.

Maybe Sharon Stone is right: sex in cinema is interesting because it is so seldom free. But in this film that is not the case, because sex is so heavily entwined with emotional blackmail,depression and mortality-- and not much of a dance at all. Brando and Schneider got this totally correct.

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