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It’s late on a Saturday night. You’re home alone in front of the computer. I know what you need:
Naked Marlon Brando.
My own relationship with Last Tango In Paris is weird; I first approached the film as a kid from a purely prurient point of view, getting my hands on a video tape of the legendary sex movie purely as wank material. Years later I approached it from a far too high-minded point of view, and found myself kind of bored with the movie. I think the right approach is somewhere in the middle.
Bernardo Bertolucci’s 1972 film has Marlon Brando as an American in Paris whose wife has just killed herself. In his grief he comes upon the incredibly lovely Maria Schneider; without so much as exchanging names, they fuck. The two begin a relationship that is, as per Brando’s orders, purely sexual. They will never know each others names. They will only get together to screw. And the sex is degrading and rough.
The movie was rated X at the time of release (it’s now NC-17), and it was banned in Italy. Bertolucci was put on trial for obscenity and found guilty; he escaped jail but couldn’t vote for five years. Over time it’s become pretty legendary, especially among people who haven’t seen it, for a scene where Brando uses a stick of butter to lube up Schneider for anal sex. Schneider today says that this wasn’t in the script and was Brando’s idea, and that she can’t cook with butter anymore as a result. (How amazing would it have been if this Hulu presentation was brought to you by Land O’ Lakes? And yes, there are commercials. They’re not too horrible, but this film isn’t really meant to be seen with interruptions)
Rewatching a bit of the movie just now I found myself sucked in by the sublime performances (Brando is pretty great, although as was the case in all of his later life good performances, he’s also a little bit funny when he doesn’t mean to be) and by Bertolucci’s incredible work. The film is beautiful, even when not blown up to full screen and watched on Hulu’s little box.
Which of course is little surprise; Bertolucci is one of the great masters of modern cinema, and even his lesser works look gorgeous. That said, is wrong for me to admit that I prefer The Dreamers over Last Tango when it comes to Bertolucci’s dirty movies?
Last Tango in Paris is pretty explicitly sexual, so be warned.
And also be warned: this is only on Hulu for about 10 more days. If you’re using Watch This Now to stockpile future recommendations, be aware this one will soon be gone.
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Behind every great book adaptation is a forgettable first try. — By Ryan Covey