Ultimo Tango a Parigi [Last Tango in Paris] (1972)

<strong class="MovieTitle">Ultimo Tango a Parigi</strong> [<strong class="MovieTitle">Last Tango in Paris</strong>] (1972)

(On TV, April 2018) I’m usually a good sport about watching movies that predate my birth—the world has moved on since then, some have not aged very well but it’s important to put them in context and appreciate them for what they were trying to do at the time. This being said, appreciating a film for its artistic intent is not the same thing as liking a film that goes out of its way to be unpleasant, and so I find myself quite willing to dismiss Last Tango in Paris out of hand from 2018’s perspective. The story of a so-called erotic drama between two strangers meeting in a Paris apartment, this is a film that delights in the more sordid aspects of human nature, adultery and domination being part of the package. Writer/Director Bernardo Bertolucci has his own obsessions, but they’re not necessarily fun to watch. Maria Schneider is cute enough (especially with curly hair) but Marlon Brando is a significant obstacle to any enjoyment of the movie. Shot at a time when Brandon was halfway through his slide from the energetic young man of his first performances to the bloated mess of his later years, he’s suitably repellent here, with balding head, expanding gut, aggressive attitude and twice the age of his co-star—hardly the sex symbol that an “erotic drama” would call for. Much of the events throughout the film are unpleasant, with a number of unbearable moments along the way. By the tragic ending, we feel relief that it’s finally over. I’m not a good audience for the kind of drama that is Last Tango in Paris, so I shouldn’t be surprised if it was such an ordeal to watch. 

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