Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Last Tango in Paris

So, today's movie is Last Tango in Paris, directed by Bernardo Bertolucci in 1972. I never really heard of this movie before, but it's got Marlon Brando and the scandal of being released with an X rating (which was then lowered to NC-17). I guess people found it to be really disgusting and pornographic, which I didn't, really, but films have probably gotten more open about that sort of thing since the 70s. Probably.

I can't decide how I feel about this film. On one hand, personally, parts of the film bothered me. Not because I'm all prudish and nasty, but because I just get really uncomfortable about issues involving violence (physical or sexual) against women, and some of these scenes fell into a gray area for me. It's just my issue, but it definitely affected the way I viewed the movie, for better or for worse. There were parts of it that I really liked, though, which made it sort of complicated for me to come to any sort of conclusion about.

I'm just going to use a summary from IMDB because I (to be honest) don't really feel like writing about this movie. "While looking for an apartment, Jeanne, a beautiful young Parisienne, encounters Paul, a mysterious American expatriate mourning his wife's recent suicide. Instantly drawn to each other, they have a stormy, passionate affair, in which they do not reveal their names to each other. Their relationship deeply affects their lives, as Paul struggles with his wife's death and Jeanne prepares to marry her fiance, Tom, a film director making a cinema-verite documentary about her."

Stormy, passionate affair does not really summarize what the sexuality of this movie is like. It's interesting. I liked that it wasn't like, romantic passion, like so much sex in movies can be. The scope of human sexuality is so huge that it was refreshing to see something other than just blue lights and romantic love or drunk hookups or something. I liked that Jeanne and Paul had this raw, untamed relationship, one where they both were just satisfying (er, I think they both were) their sexual desires and nothing else. I didn't really judge them for their relationship, because Paul was really open (i.e. aggressive) about his fantasies, and often, Jeanne was receptive to them - something that takes a little more than just desire to achieve. I think the film is extremely honest about sexuality. Even the scenes that bothered me were honest, because I couldn't get into the heads of the characters and understand their actions, and really, how many people can do that? I mean, you could get a room of people to watch this movie and probably everyone would disagree about if the sex was sexy, violent, misogynistic, rapey, arousing, normal, etc.

Other than that, I don't know if I liked the film or not. I didn't read the sex as always consensual, but I can't say for sure (unlike Ebert, who apparently can tell when a character is thinking about sex or not?). Personally it didn't come off that way to me in the beginning all the time - you can consent to sex but still be taken advantage of, you know? But there were a lot of scenes where she seemed into it. I thought it was sort of cool, then, and I started to warm up to the movie. I sort of started to like Brando's character, laughing at some of his antics. I felt like I understood their relationship. However, after the film ended, I was back to square one and I had no real idea about how Jeanne felt about the relationship or really anything in general. To be honest, I have no desire to even figure it out. I just feel weird about the whole thing (which was only worsened when I was checking out Wikipedia, which linked to articles where both actors seemed a little traumatized by the filming experience) and I really don't have the energy to give it any attention.

Some people get really upset when animals die in films. Others have issues when children are kidnapped or hurt. We all have things that tap into our personal fears and triggers. This movie, unfortunately for me, tapped into some of mine, and that just made it hard for me to want to really figure it out. It's not the movies fault, and like I said, I appreciated it for being so frank and honest about sexuality and actually showing an interesting and realistic range of it. I think movies like this are important and good, even if I personally am not a fan of them - I would never say that something should not be in a film just because someone could get upset by it. I just want to be honest in my post, and honestly, I don't know how I feel about this movie, or really have any interest in breaking it down to understand it. It does a lot of things really well and clearly is really good in places, but I still feel conflicted about it. I know my review isn't really fair and unbiased, but we all take some baggage with us into films that affects our opinions. I really liked and hated this movie at the same time, and I can't figure out how I feel overall about it. Hopefully you guys have had this experience with a film and understand where I am coming from!

Ebert's Great Movie Essy on Last Tango in Paris
Buy it on Amazon

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