Last tango in Paris. 50 years.

by Kelly Stavropoulou

Last Tango in Paris. A phrase that in itself evokes a romantic romance managed, 50 years ago, to become the title of an iconic film and finally to be identified with violent sex, with the paradox that can connect a man and a woman and of course with Paris – in a more realistic version of it this time.

Bernardo Bertolucci directs his personal fantasies, against the backdrop of a Paris that defies its clichéd description as “the City of Light”. Beguiling and atmospheric, full of inspiration and reasons to go beyond your limits, Bertolucci’s Paris is inhabited by real people with dark thoughts, violent instincts, and carnal passions. Dressed in the yellow, retro ’70s veil, it makes you wonder for a moment if this version of him suits him better than any other. As for the anarchic and romantic jazz melodies written by Gato Barbieri as a soundtrack, they follow the melancholy and realism of the direction.

It takes two to tango

It may be an undisputed must-see today and in the classics of our film library, but Last Tango in Paris was considered inappropriate at the time due to its pornographic content, and its creator, Bernardo Bertolucci, was accused of cruelty and misogyny. Only after the French were queuing outside cinemas and Spaniards traveling as far as nearby Biarritz to see the critically acclaimed film was it allowed to be shown in America, England, and some other European countries. How interesting can the story of a 45-year-old widower who accidentally meets a 20-year-old engaged girl and they have sex without even exchanging names really be? A lot is the answer. Especially if this story unfolds under the watchful eye of Bertolucci. The scene in which Paul (Marlon Brando) asks Jeanne (Maria Schneider) to bring the butter and rapes her on the floor – if an act that looks so natural can be called rape, it is said to have been off script. Romy Schneider was actually crying, out of surprise and anger at what was happening. The actress would later state that her participation in the film was the only thing she regretted in her life. Marlon Brando will say that after Last Tango in Paris he vowed never again to be so brutal for the needs of a role. Neither of them will ever speak to Bernardo Bertolucci again.

Writing about such a classic film, especially if you’re not a film critic, can only repeat things that have already been saying. The drama of an unhappy middle-aged man who unleashes angry sex. The naivety of a girl who seeks thrills and ends up accepting abuse callously calling it passion or love. A sexual relationship that due to desperation can be experienced as a love story and take a fatal turn. All said, recorded, and repeated – in life and in cinema. However, we keep as a banner the lively Paris of the 70s, the jazz melodies of Barbieri, and the most heartbreaking Brando we have ever seen.

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