Thursday, July 16, 2009
LAST TANGO IN PARIS
I turned on TV and arrived at the middle of Last Tango in Paris (after the famous sex scene).
I could not turn away. Almost nothing happens, except: these two passionate, driven people interact. It was riveting.
Strength of desire powers acting.
Although little happens, it is all about sex. Watching the film is liberating and empowering to the audience and to creators of film drama who see it. It is an influential film in the history of cinema, and it was widely honored.
It is the subject of one of the most famous film reviews in history, by Pauline Kael.
So it is disturbing and sad that both actors, both Marlon Brando and Maria Schneider, felt humiliated and abused by the process. I would wish actors to be active, supportive, constructive, and willing participants in the process of making provocative films.
Indeed, Catherine Breillat, who had a role in the film when she was young, did develop into a critic, teacher, and provocative filmmaker.
Perhaps it was the times, perhaps the personalities, perhaps it was the extent to which Tango exceeded the sexual norms of other pictures and the extent to which it required the principal actors to expose themselves physically and emotionally.
The director, Bernardo Bertolucci, recently made The Dreamers with Eva Green (a fine film that captures the spirit of 1968 better than any picture since Godard's La Chinoise). This is another strongly sexual picture that crosses boundaries (but perhaps not, relative to other films now, to the extent of Last Tango). I hope Eva and the other actors involved felt they were creative participants rather than hapless victims in the process of creating the film.
I hope other directors and actors can collaborate sucessfully on new projects that are extreme, provocative and intense.