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Last Tango in Paris


Stars: Marlon Brando, Maria Schneider, Jean-Pierre Leaud, Marie-Helene Breillat, Catherine Allegret, Massimo Girotti

Director: Bernardo Bertolucci

The 35 years that have passed since Bertolucci’s celebrated ‘Euro-porn-masquerading-as-art’ hit made waves in the media (and a fortune at the box-office) because of its (graphic for the time) use of four-letter words, nudity and simulated sex have left Last Tango seeming old-fashioned and tame in comparison’s with today’s anything-and-everything-goes (well done, Michael Winterbottom et al!) sex scenes and ubiquitous torrent of filthy Channel 4-friendly language.

But what was startling back in 1972 now seems sadly dated and ineffably pretentious to boot. Then the hearing and seeing a Hollywood star (albeit an apparently then-fading one) talking dirty and stripping off in the name of ‘Art’ was genuinely extraordinary. Subtitles, too, and a simplistic story – American expatriate gets down and dirty with a young Frenchwoman engaged to a (hilariously affected) filmmaker – helped to give the movie its overblown and undeserved intellectual reputation.

This time around, Brando – who was much parodied during his mumbling Method Actor heyday – seems to be parodying himself: his stagy performance is uncomfortable and most of the time more than a little embarrassing to watch. Schneider strips with a will but acting really isn’t her strong point and the most entertaining performance comes from Jean Pierre Leaud, subtly (and I hope deliberately) sending up Nouvelle Vague directors something rotten. Interesting as an historical oddity but now painfully pass?.

Alan Frank

Italy/France 1972. UK Distributor: Park Circus. Technicolor.
123 minutes. Academy. UK certificate: 18.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 3, Violence/Horror 0, Drugs 0, Swearing 3.

Review date: 13 Jul 2007