Last Tango in Paris

Drama, Romance Rated: NC-17 129 min
Saturday, January 19
Play Last Tango in Paris movie still

Last Tango in Paris, although not Bertolucci’s best film, is his most contentious. It was controversial when it was released for its infamous sex scene, and it is more so today, because the director admitted, in a 2013 video, that the scene in which a stick of butter is used to simulate sex was not consensual, and that he and star Marlon Brando conspired to execute the scene without the knowledge of 19 year-old co-star Maria Schneider. He added that he “wanted her reaction as a girl, not as an actress. I think she hated me and also Marlon because we didn’t tell her that there was that detail of the butter used as a lubricant.” Bertolucci admitted that withholding the details was “horrible,” but said he never regretted it. In 2007, Schneider, who subsequently struggled with drugs and depression, said she felt humiliated and “a little raped.” She added, “Marlon said to me, `Maria, don’t worry, it’s just a movie’.” — Peter Biskind

“Bernardo Bertolucci’s Last Tango in Paris was presented for the first time on the closing night of the New York Film Festival, October 14, 1972: that date should become a landmark in movie history comparable to May 29, 1913—the night Le Sacre du Printemps was first performed—in music history. There was no riot, and no one threw anything at the screen, but I think it’s fair to say that the audience was in a state of shock, because Last Tango in Paris has the same kind of hypnotic excitement as the Sacre, the same primitive force, and the same thrusting, jabbing eroticism. The movie breakthrough has finally come.” — Pauline Kael, New Yorker
“Bernardo Bertolucci’s Last Tango in Paris is one of the great emotional experiences of our time. It’s a movie that exists so resolutely on the level of emotion, indeed, that possibly only Marlon Brando, of all living actors, could have played its lead. Who else can act so brutally and imply such vulnerability and need?” — Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times
“Bernardo Bertolucci’s Last Tango in Paris is a beautiful, courageous, foolish, romantic and reckless film and Bertolucci is like a diving champion, drunk on enthusiasm, who dares dive from the high board knowing well that the pool is half empty.” — Vincent Canby, New York Times
directed by
Bernardo Bertolucci
written by
Bernardo Bertolucci (story), Bernardo Bertolucci (screenplay), Franco Arcalli (screenplay), Agnès Varda (adaptation), Jean-Louis Trintignant (dialogue collaborator)
Marlon Brando, Maria Schneider, Maria Michi, Giovanna Galletti
English, French
France, Italy
production company
United Artists