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Last Tango in Paris - Blu-ray / drama DVD / romance DVD / Disney DVD review
LAST TANGO IN PARIS Rated NC-17 by the Motion Picture Association of America curledupdvd.com rating: 1 stars
Featuring: Marlon Brando, Maria Schneider, Jean-Pierre Léaud, Massimo Girotti, Catherine Allegret
Director: Bernardo Bertolucci Studio: MGM Home Entertainment
DVD release: 15 February 2011 Runtime: 129 min. (1 disc)
Format: Color, Blu-ray, Widescreen
DVD features: 1080p HD, Aspect ratio 1.85:1, Audio tracks (DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 - English; Dolby Digital 2.0 - French, German, Spanish, Catalan), Subtitles (English SDH, French, Spanish, Portuguese, German, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, Indonesian, Korean, Mandarin, Norwegian, Polish, Swedish, Thai), Trailer

*Last Tango in Paris*An American man (Marlon Brando), his wife having recently committed suicide, meets a lovely Parisian girl (Maria Schneider) in an empty apartment each is considering renting. There, ladies and gentlemen, is the plot of the "classic" Last Tango in Paris laid bare.

The film has survived as one of the world's greatest based, apparently, on the scandal it caused when it was first released in the fall of 1972. No doubt there are good enough reasons to consider it an important film, but a great one? Film critics and les connoisseurs des artes cinematiques probably find the symbolism thrilling: the crazy lady at the bottom of the stairs, the cracked mirrors, the blood in the bathroom, and on and on.

All of it amounts, frankly, to a lot of hot, stale air. Marlon Brando, once the amazing actor who starred in On the Waterfront, is frumpy, cruel and boring--it is extremely odd that his performace in Last Tango is considered one of his best. Or maybe it's not so odd; maybe it is a great performance, one that mirrors the sadism of the general population. Schneider, meanwhile, is clearly miserable and, as we now know, her misery was not an act.

The famous anal rape scene, for example, was not in the script. It was Brando who thought it up moments before it was shot -- and was the one inspired to lube up his co-star with butter. The scene, even not knowing this, is unwatchable because Brando is so laconically demonic (true evil is banal, Hannah Arendt reminded us in the wake of the Nazis).

Director Bernard Bertolucci is usually portrayed as the bad guy responsible for Schneider's subsequent difficulties. (A couple years later, she was kicked off the set of Caligula and checked herself into a mental hospital.) And, no doubt, the film was his idea, from story to script to shot choices. But Brando is deeply twisted in this film; he isn't so much acting as sleepwalking through a longed-for fantasy. No wonder his wife committed suicide.

When Schneider died at age 58 in February 2011, Bertolucci expressed regret that he would never "hold her again tenderly... to ask her to forgive me." In my opinion, it is an entire generation of filmgoers who owed Schneider an apology. No doubt art can be made that teaches us about banality, evil, cruelty and injustice. But this film is not that: it wallows and revels, and in so doing, becomes evil, banal, cruel and grossly unjust.

MGM's re-release of the film on Blu-ray does nothing to redeem the film. Sure, the definition is great, but there are zero extras on the disc. The studio missed a great chance to delve into the film's history of controversy in order to help a new generation of viewers recalibrate its importance. The studio missed a great chance to place the film in the context of Bertolucci's career (he's made some truly great films; this just isn't one of them) as well as the careers of the players.

As Brando as Paul says at one point in the film, "What a steaming pile of bullshit."
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reviewed by Brian Charles Clark
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