Last Tango in Paris (Review/Discussion)

Last Tango in Paris
dir. Bernardo Bertolucci
starring Marlon Brando and Maria Schneider

The film starts off with some beautiful filming. There is great use of darkness and light (the film is in color) and camera angles. I was also excited by the premise:

(Small Spoilers)

A man who recently loses his wife meets a young woman by chance. They meet in an apartment, and he sets some intriguing ground-rules: no mentioning of each other’s names or any discussions of each other’s past.

What would it be like to interact with another person without knowing these things? It felt like an interesting experiment focused on two people relating to each other on a more primitive and basic level.

That’s was my first impression. But when I think about it more, Paul (Marlon Brando) basically wants to do this for sexual reasons. Knowing the names and the past would only lead make it harder for him to have the kind of sexual relationship he wants. His motives and their relationship is more complicated than that, and it may be worth pursuing. If anyone has seen the film, and has any thoughts, I’d be interested in discussing it.

I have really thought about Paul’s or Schneider’s character’s motivations, or their relationship. I do have some questions though:

Why did Paul do what he did?
What are both characters trying to accomplish?
What was the deal with the moments of depraved sex?
What happened at the end when he tries to get back with Schneider’s character?

There is a nice scene with Brando at the bedside of his deceased wife, but other than that, I didn’t care for his performance, particularly when he goes into those free-form poetic monologues. I remember liking it a bit in Apocalypse Now, Redux, but here it just seems pretentious and cheesy. Then again, there were some moments when I couldn’t hear the dialogue very well.

OK, I’ll leave these questions and comments out there. If anyone sees this and wants to discuss this film, I’ll be here.

2 Responses to “Last Tango in Paris (Review/Discussion)”


  1. Meg

    My thought about why he went after her in the end was that he felt bad about destroying her life and he was trying to disillusion her concerning himself so that she could split with him with no regrets. I felt that way up to the very end where he followed her to her parents house. At that point I felt that he changed his mind and now that he had laid it all out for her he wanted her to like him for who he was and he didn’t want her to think he was a beast. I think he felt that everyone thougt that about him. (Why did his wife commit suicide?)

  2. Reid

    Hi Meg,

    I recently Pauline Kael’s review of the film, and she had a somewhat similar take on their relationship. The review inspired me because Kael made me see the film in a different way.

    As to why his wife committed suicide, I’m not sure. I’ve only seen this film and A Sheltering Sky. Can you recommend other Bertolucci films?

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