Last Tango in Paris

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Paul, a middle-aged American hotel owner mourning his wife’s suicide, meets a young, engaged Parisian woman named Jeanne in an apartment that both are interested in renting. They proceed to have an anonymous sexual relationship in the apartment, and Paul demands that neither of them share any personal information, not even their names. The affair goes on until one day Jeanne comes to the apartment to find 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 with his wife, and the telling of his life story carries them to a tango bar, where he continues telling her about himself. The loss of anonymity disillusions Jeanne about their relationship, and 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.

REVIEW:

As a budding cinephile, it has been brought to my attention that I need to step out of my comfort zone and check out some films that every good (or bad) reviewer should see. First up is Last Tango in Paris, a films starring Marlon Brando that received an NC-17 rating, which it might still keep today, but not for the same reasons.

What is this about?

An American expatriate living in Paris is still reeling from his estranged wife’s suicide. While searching for an apartment, he encounters an equally despondent Frenchwoman, and the couple embarks on an anonymous, no-strings-attached sexual liaison.

What did I like?

Underbelly. The other day, I was having a discussion about The Simpsons. For those of you that were around in the early days, you may remember the episode when Bart is a foreign exchange student and ends up at a wine farm, a far cry from the France he was expecting. That same idea is what one gets watching this film. There is nothing glamorous about the Paris of this film. Come to think of it, I don’t believe they show any landmarks. As much as I love the tourist views we get, it was nice to see the other side for once, and it set the gritty tone for the film.

NC-17. In my opening paragraph, I mentioned that the rating for this film was NC-17 and that it may keep that rating if this was released today, but not for the same reason. Well, the reasons it was given that rating when it was released was because of “sexual explicit content”. I would like to see the original X-rated version of this, though.  Truth be told, this content isn’t so explicit. Today, it would the full frontal hairy bush and all the smoking that would garner that rating. I still don’t get how smoking can affect a rating, but whatever. There are some odd things that do so. For me, though, such raw content is a contrast to the artsy feel of this film, very similar to Monster’s Ball.

Tango with Brando. Marlon Brando was one of the world’s finest actors. I believe this was released a couple of years before The Godfather films, but I don’t know the exact years. Brando’s acting chops seem to have been forgotten in the wake of sexual controversy that surrounds this film. Damn shame, really. On another note, the titular tango scene, which does not include either of our leads, is pretty entertaining. Maybe it is all these years of watching Dancing with the Stars, but I was wanting to see more of the tango.

What didn’t I like?

Starting line. Brando’s character’s wife has committed suicide before the film starts and this serves as the motivation for his character. Now, I know how I would be if I experienced such a loss. I wouldn’t want to feel anything. Does that mean I’d go around picking up any chick I come across in town? No, but different strokes for different folks. My issue with this suicide angle is that they brought it up now and then to develop the character and then, after what seems like a few weeks, we see the body of the wife laying in repose in the apartment. It is almost implied that she’s always been there, which is quite odd, if you ask me.

French tickler. This is going to make me sound totally uncultured and uneducated, but the subtitles of this film were too much reading. Yes, this is a film made in France by an Italian director, but for some reason, I suppose I was hoping for more English, even though Paris is in the title.

Shove it. There is a scene where Marlon Brando tells his chick to stick a finger up his butthole and then he says something along the lines of her having sex with a pig. For those that are into this kind of thing, it may have been a treat to see/hear in a major Academy award nominated picture. However, for many of us, this was a little uneasy to watch. I can imagine it was meant to be hot and sexy at the time, but didn’t really come off that way to me.

There is no doubt that Last Tango in Paris is a great film. The problem with it is that is too artsy fartsy for my taste. There are elements of this film that are intriguing and interesting. There are moments of sexiness that will lend themselves to the rewind button, as well. In the end, though, this is just a flick that was made more for the Academy, as opposed to the audience. That being said, if you were to ask me whether or not you should watch this, I’m going to say that this is a film you need to watch at least once, so check it out.

3 out of 5 stars

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