Written by: Bernardo Bertolucci (story), Bernardo Bertolucci and Franco Arcalli (screenplay), Agnès Varda (adaptation), Jean-Louis Trintignant (dialogue collaborator)
Directed by: Bernardo Bertolucci
Starring: Marlon Brando, Maria Schneider, Maria Michi
My rating is simple, Watch It, It Depends, Skip it. Read my previous movie reviews!
A middle aged businessman forges a secret relationship with a young French woman, wanting to base it only on sex.
If you want to see Bernardo Bertolucci's personal fantasy on film, it's Last Tango in Paris.
This is an artsy movie in the sense that any movie that doesn't have a plot is artsy. While it's easy to dismiss the movie, tt breaks down relationships by looking at one based just on sex. It doesn't tell you what to think, you're left to draw your own conclusions once it ends.
This analyzes relationships by looking at one that's completely atypical. Paul (Marlon Brando) sees Jeanne (Maria Schneider) and wants her, though just for sex. He doesn't want to know her name or any personal details, and for some reason the relationship continues.
This is based on Bertolucci's fantasy of meeting a woman on the street.
Is this a fantasy come to life for Paul or just his need for control? The majority of the movie focuses on their relationship, or lack there of. The movie doesn't have a driving plot, it's more characters living their lives in the narrow window the movie permits us to see. We're left to guess why Jeanne continues the relationship when it's clear she's a plaything for him. It seems to prove that doing something in secret is more exciting. The secret's only fun if no one knows. While she wants to form a connection and learn about him, he constantly reminds her that he's not interested in that.
This is one of Marlon Brando's last good roles before he completely stopped caring. He kept getting roles because people wanted to work with him. (See my review Lost Soul: The Doomed Journey of Richard Stanley's Island of Dr. Moreau for some of Brando's later antics). Even in this movie Brando refused to memorize lines. Note cards were taped throughout the set to help him.
The content rating is fair. There isn't anything in this movie I haven't seen in R rated movies, though maybe not all of these acts in a single film. It certainly gets explicit at times.
Jeanne was a rebound for Paul as he figured out what he wanted out of life. He leaves Paris and dumps Jeanne without a word. Of course he realizes what he's missing later, but by then it's gone. He broke her heart and now that she knows more about him, Jeanne doesn't want the baggage.
Why do certain people stay together? Sometimes it's based on the first meeting, sometimes it's just routine. Paul needed control and found that with Jeanne. He created a relationship that he had complete control over. Did he come back to her because he loved her? No. He didn't know her. He realized he had punted his fantasy and wanted it back. He unloads his personal history on Jeanne in a last ditch effort to get her back, trying to play into what he thinks she wants.
Did Paul want a relationship or did he want to continue the fantasy?
While the movie can generate this level of introspection, it doesn't ask any questions and it doesn't drive you to think about it after it concludes. It's solely up to the viewer. It's easier to watch this and not ask why. Delving into the minds of the characters the day after I watched this makes me like the movie a lot more than when I just finished watching.