Tag Archives: Maria Schneider

Last Tango in Paris (1972)

lasttango2

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 7 out of 10

4-Word Review: Sex without knowing names.

Paul (Marlon Brando) is a middle-aged American man living in Paris who’s despondent over his wife Rosa’s recent suicide. Feeling alone and without direction he meets up with Jeanne (Maria Schneider),a much younger woman, while both are looking to rent the same apartment. Jeanne is dating Thomas (Jean-Pierre Leaud) a filmmaker who wants to film her life and make it into a movie, which Jeanne is not so keen about. Despite not knowing Paul’s name, as he wants their identities to remain a mystery, she gets into a torrid sex affair with him and finds Paul’s evasive manner to be both frustrating and intriguing. However, after he rapes her he disappears and Jeanne considers their relationship over, but Paul meets her on the street a few days later, but this time he tells her all about himself, but hearing the sad details of his lonely life makes him less appealing to her. She tries to get away from him, but Paul continues to pursue her, which ultimately leads to tragedy.

The film is probably better known for the controversy and scandal it caused upon its release than anything else. While some of its sexual aspects will seem somewhat tame by today’s standards back in 1972 it became a hotly contested commodity where the government in Italy openly banned the film and ordered all copies of it seized and destroyed while also revoking director Bernardo Bertolucci’s right to vote for 5 years. Residents of Spain, where the film was also banned, would travel hundreds of miles to the French border just so they could see the film that everyone was talking about. In the US the controversy was no different with conservative pundits labeling it ‘pornography disguised as art’. In Montclair, New Jersey residents tried to physically block movie goers from going in to see the film by forming a human chain in front of the theater and those that were able to break through got labeled as being ‘perverts’.

Today the most controversial aspect are Maria Schneider’s accusations that the infamous ‘butter scene’ where Brando rapes her anally while using butter as a lubricant was not planned nor scripted and the she was taken by complete surprise. In a 2013 interview Bertolucci admits that Maria did not know the details of the scene ahead of time and this was intentional in order to capture the genuine look of shock on her face. While Bertolucci says he does not regret doing the scene he still felt bad for Maria, who maintained up until her death in 2011, that she had been both ‘violated’ and ‘humiliated’ and never spoke to Bernardo afterwards.

As for the film itself it’s interesting on a technical end, I particularly enjoyed its fragmented/dream-like narrative, but it also comes-off as being a bit overrated. It was based on Bertolucci’s own sexual fantasies regarding his desire of picking-up a young, beautiful woman off the streets and having a passionate sexual affair with her without ever knowing her name, or having any responsibilities or obligations attached to it, which is certainly an intriguing idea for a script, but the way the two come together seemed just a bit too rushed and unrealistic. Brando, who never bothered to memorize his lines and ad-libbed most of it, seems to be playing himself as he displays the same moody, self loathing quality that he also conveyed in every interview I’ve seen him in making it less about creating a character and more just him showing his true nature. Schneider is the best thing about the movie, as is the scene where the two disrupt a tango dance contest, but ultimately the film leaves one with a dark, depressed, and dismal feeling after it’s over.

My Rating: 7 out of 10

Released: October 14, 1972

Runtime: 2 Hour 10 Minutes

Rated NC-17

Director: Bernardo Bertolucci

Studio: United Artists

Available: DVD, Blu-ray, Amazon Video, Pluto TV, YouTube

The Passenger (1975)

the passenger

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 5 out of 10

4-Word Review: He steals someone’s identity.

This is a low key drama detailing a world-weary reporter named David (Jack Nicholson) who comes upon a dead man in a hotel room. David is unhappy with his existence and since they closely resemble one another he decides to switch identities with the dead man. He believes that this man lives a jet setting lifestyle, but soon finds that may not be true and that everyone is trying to escape from something.

This film has the artsy flair that is typical of all Michelangelo Antonioni’s films. It tends to be quite evasive as it brings up certain points and then seems to muddle them. It’s made to make you ponder, but has a decidedly downbeat tone. There is no music until the very end, which was a mistake as it gets too quiet at points and one’s mind will eventually wander especially with the lack of strong dramatic interaction. Having some music blended in would certainly have helped the momentum and avoided the rather flat feeling you get when it is all over.

The film is not without its good points and can best be described as a kind of Easy Rider, but more from a world perspective. Like with that film it describes characters trying to escape from a world that will not let them go. I loved the wide variety of exotic locales, which in any other film would symbolize excitement and adventure yet here they become part of the imprisonment. The film though does not take full advantage of its outlets and the sense of detachment that it has eventually rubs off on the viewer.

Nicholson gives a surprisingly non-dynamic performance. Maybe he was just trying to get into his transparent character, but either way it is not riveting. Maria Schneider is interesting only because she has the face of a young girl but the sensibilities of a much older woman.

There are some interesting shots. One features the camera looking out of a barred window from inside a room. Then without taking a single cut the camera moves through the bars, makes a complete turn, and then looks back through the window from the outside. There is also footage of an actual execution of a political prisoner. This certainly will interest the morbid, but it also seems to be a bit sick and disrespectful especially when the camera stays locked onto limp, bullet-riddled body.

My Rating: 5 out of 10

Released: April 9, 1975

Runtime: 2Hours 6Minutes

Rated PG

Director: Michelangelo Antonioni

Studio: MGM

Available: VHS, DVD