The film "The Last Tango in Paris": reviews, plot, actors

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The film "The Last Tango in Paris": reviews, plot, actors
The film "The Last Tango in Paris": reviews, plot, actors

Video: The film "The Last Tango in Paris": reviews, plot, actors

Video: The film "The Last Tango in Paris": reviews, plot, actors
Video: Film show: Why ‘Last Tango in Paris’ is one of our critic’s favourite movies of all time 2023, December

Last Tango in Paris is a 1972 erotic drama directed by Italian director and screenwriter Bernardo Bertolucci. The film is about a sexual relationship between a middle-aged American and a young Parisian woman. Because of the explicit scenes, the picture was negatively received by many critics and caused many scandals. Subsequently, various incidents on the set of the film were widely discussed in the press.


The idea for the film "Last Tango in Paris" came to Bernardo Bertolucci's mind when he fantasized about meeting a stranger on the streets of Paris and having an anonymous intimate relationship with her. According to the director, the main character in the script symbolizes the masculinity of Bertolucci himself, and the heroine is a collective image of a dream girl. The painting was also inspired by the work of the British artist Francis Bacon. Andy Warholeclaimed that the film was based on his own tape, released several years earlier.


Bernardo Bertolucci is an Italian director who started his career back in the fifties with amateur films and gradually began working with such masters as Dario Argento, Sergio Leone and Pier Paolo Pasolini as a second director and screenwriter.

Breakthrough for Bertolucci was the work that came out two years before the "Last Tango in Paris", the film "The Conformist". He brought worldwide fame to the aspiring director and subsequently greatly influenced Hollywood and European cinema.


Bertolucci's script was assisted by Franco Arcalli and Agnès Varda. The film was directed by Vitorio Storraro, who had already worked with the director on The Conformist. Shortly after finishing the script, Bertolucci began looking for actors to play the lead roles in his new film.


Initially, the main roles in the film "Last Tango in Paris" were to be played by Jean-Louis Trintignant, who starred in Bernardo's previous film "The Conformist", and Dominique Sanda. The actor turned down the role after reading the script, and the actress was pregnant at that time and could not act in explicit scenes. Jean-Paul Belmondo, Warren Beatty and Alain Delon were also turned down as the male lead, who were apparently embarrassed by the explicit content of "Last Tango in Paris".

Brando and Bertolucci
Brando and Bertolucci

As a result, the main roles went toHollywood legend Marlon Brando, who shortly before finished filming The Godfather, and aspiring nineteen-year-old actress Maria Schneider. Brando refused to learn lines, considering the film's dialogue to be poor, and improvised most of his lines, and also refused to appear completely naked on screen.


The plot of "Last Tango in Paris" is rather conditional and difficult to describe, Brando himself admitted in his autobiography that even many years later he did not quite understand what the film was about. The film is about a middle-aged American man named Paul, who has recently been widowed. He owns a small hotel in Paris. One day, he accidentally meets Jeanne, a young Parisian who is trying to rent an apartment that Paul is interested in.

They have a sexual relationship, soon Paul rents an apartment. They continue their romance, but he requires complete anonymity, not giving his name or revealing any details about himself. Jeanne continues her relationship with Paul, despite the fact that she has a fiancé, a young director. One day, her mysterious lover moves out of the apartment unannounced.

Film frame
Film frame

After some time, Paul meets Jeanne again and asks to resume their connection. They go to a nearby bar, where a man tells his companion about himself, which finally destroys their relationship. Jeanne tries to get rid of Paul, but he continues to haunt her and even comes to her house, demanding her name. As a result, the girl shoots her ex-lover andkills him.

Scandals on the court

From the very beginning of filming "Last Tango in Paris" the actors began to experience difficulties. According to Schneider and Brando, they were emotionally abused by the director, who often demanded too much frankness from them and, according to Marlon, even offered to film unsimulated sex scenes, which both leading actors refused.

On the set
On the set

Bertolucci himself had problems due to Brando's inability to remember his dialogues. As a result of this, the actor placed cards with text throughout the set, and during the shooting of erotic scenes, even on the naked body of his partner. The director had to find loopholes to keep these cards out of the frame.

The main scandal on the set, which is often discussed to this day, was the work on the famous butter scene. According to Maria Schneider, Bertolucci and Brando did not warn her about the changes in the script of the film, and what was happening in the frame was a real shock for her to the point that she burst into tears. And it ended up in the final cut. The director himself later admitted that he was trying to get the most realistic scenario from the young actress. Because of this scandal, many activists called for a boycott of the film "Last Tango in Paris" and other works by Bertolucci.

Actors react

Marlon Brando and Maria Schneider continued to be friends even after the end of filming, but both did not speak to Bertolucci until the end of their days. Actordevoted a large part of his autobiography to the filming of the film, where he said that he swore to himself after participating in the project never again to become so vulnerable for the sake of the role.

Schneider also received a deep psychological trauma. She vowed to herself never again to act in erotic scenes and throughout her life actively fought for the rights of actresses on the set and for gender equality in the film industry. "Last Tango in Paris" remained the most famous film in the career of an actress who could not get rid of the status of a sex symbol and show herself as a serious actress. Schneider also claimed that she received too little fee for the role, much lower than her male counterparts.

On the set
On the set

Throughout her life, Maria continued to be surrounded by scandals related to her open bisexuality and drug addiction. The actress has survived several overdoses and suicide attempts. In the eighties, she was able to get rid of her addiction and return to normal, but until the end of her days she claimed that participation in the "Last Tango in Paris" ruined her life. Maria Schneider died of breast cancer in 2011.

Reception of the public

From the very beginning of the release, reviews of "Last Tango in Paris" from ordinary viewers were very different. Many noted the courage of the Italian director and the innovative nature of the film, while others called the picture pornography and questioned its artistic merit. In addition to the erotic scenes, the scene in which Paul screamson the corpse of his wife.

In Europe, the audience reacted to the film much more calmly than in the US. There, in one of the small towns, a group of citizens even threatened to blow up a cinema showing a picture, calling all viewers of Bertolucci's work perverts. The National Women's Organization also posted a negative press review of Last Tango in Paris, calling the film a tool of male domination and calling for a boycott.

Film frame
Film frame

To this day, despite the status of a cult classic of European cinema, the film has relatively low ratings among viewers on the sites "Kinopoisk" and IMDB. This proves that even after forty years, the picture does not delight everyone.

Critic reviews

In France, where the film was first shown, it received unanimously positive reviews. "Last Tango in Paris" was soon shown in the United States, where the opinion of critics was divided, but the most popular film reviewers of the time, Pauline Cale and Roger Ebert, rated the picture extremely positively.

Today, critics almost unanimously call Bertolucci's film a masterpiece, it is included in many lists of the best pictures in the history of cinema. However, as many journalists predicted in their reviews of "Last Tango in Paris", the film did not start a new revolution in world cinema, and even by today's standards it is considered quite frank and naturalistic.


In the homeland of the director in Italy, the picture was banned from showing, and Bertolucci himself, the actors and producers of the filmtried to sue for the production and distribution of pornography. In the end, they were acquitted, but the director was deprived of the right to vote for five years, sentenced to four months in prison, and all copies of the film were destroyed. The film's ban was lifted only in 1987, when it was released in 1972. "Last Tango in Paris" was also banned in Spain, forcing many residents of the border towns to walk to France to see the film. The film was also banned in Brazil, Chile, Portugal and South Korea. It was shown in Chile only thirty years after its release in the rest of the world.

Film frame
Film frame

In many countries, "Last Tango in Paris" was given a "pornographic" age rating in 1972, preventing it from being shown in regular theaters. The controversial butter scene was cut in the UK, but Christian activists still demanded a total ban on the film from the government.

In the US, in the conservative southern states, there were many scandals associated with the showing of "Last Tango in Paris". Some cinema owners and employees were arrested. As a result, the case of one of the arrested even reached the Supreme Court of the country, which, however, ruled that it was illegal to ban the showing of the picture.

Fees and bonuses

Despite multiple bans and calls to boycott the explicit film, the excellent reviews of "Last Tango in Paris" from critics were able to attract viewers to cinemas. Paintingmanaged to collect unprecedented for such an age rating 96 million dollars worldwide. In Italy, the film earned a record $100,000 in the six days it took from release to total government ban. In the United States alone, Last Tango in Paris earned its creators nearly thirteen million dollars in sales to home media. The budget of the film was just over a million, thus, the picture became one of the most profitable in the history of cinema.

Despite the marginal status of an almost pornographic picture, the film "Last Tango in Paris" in 1972 was nominated for several prestigious awards at once. Marlon Brando was nominated for Best Actor of the Year by the British and American Film Academy, and Bertolucci was nominated for Best Director by the Oscars and Golden Globes.

Influence and legacy

Controversial reviews of "Last Tango in Paris" in 1972 from professional critics were replaced years later by almost unanimous approval of Bertolucci's work. American director Robert Altman called the picture his favorite, and the famous film critic Roger Ebert also included it in the list of the best films in history. In addition, the film can be found in many lists of the most important pictures in the history of cinema. To this day, "Last Tango in Paris" remains one of the most famous works of Bertolucci, which was able to strengthen him in the status of a European classic and one of the most commerciallysuccessful arthouse film directors.

On the set
On the set

New scandals

During the last ten years of Bertolucci's life, they kept asking questions about the famous butter scene. In 2016, a fragment of an interview with the director appeared on the Internet, where he says that Schneider was really raped on the set, but later it turned out that the director was not so understood. However, the video attracted the attention of many film critics and Hollywood actors, including such stars as Chris Evans and Jessica Chastain, who publicly called for a boycott of the film and other works of Bertolucci, calling him a criminal. It also went to Marlon Brando, who was called an accomplice in the rape. The director had to release an official statement, where he indicated that simulated sexual intercourse was taking place in the frame.