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Last Tango in Paris: Uncut Version (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

March 1, 2011 by  



One of the most controversial films of all time receives its Blu-ray release…uncut/uncensored.  “Last Tango in Paris” received notoriety in the US, acclaim Internationally and for Marlon Brando, his most daring and most magnificent performance.  This is a unique film that you will love or hate.  But if you are a cineaste, it’s a film that is definitely recommended!

Images courtesy of © 2011 Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios Inc. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Last Tango in Paris: Uncut Version (Ultimo tango a Parigi)

FILM RELEASE DATE: 1972

DURATION: 129 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (1:85:1), English mono DTS-HD Master Audio, Spanish Mono, French Mono, AVC@36MBPS, Subtitles: English SDH, French

COMPANY: UA/MGM/20th Century Fox

RATED: NC-17 (Some Explicit Sexual Content)

RELEASE DATE: February 15, 2011

Directed by Bernardo Bertolucci

Story by Bernardo Bertolucci

Screenplay by Bernardo Bertolucci, Franco Arcalli

French Adaptation by Agnes Varda

Produced by Alberto Grimaldi

Music by Gato Barbieri

Cinematography by Vittorio Storaro

Edited by Franco Arcalli, Roberto Perpignani

Production Design by Philippe Turlure

Set Decoration by Philippe Turlure

Costume Design by Gitt Magrini

Starring:

Marlon Brando as Paul

Maria Schneider as Jeanne

Jean-Pierre Leaud as Tom (fiance of Jean)

Maria Michi as Rosa’s Mother

Gitt Magrini as Jeanne’s Mother

Catherine Allegret as Catherine

Luce Marquand as Olympia

Marie-Helene Breillat as Monique

Catherine Breillat as Mouchette

Massimo Girotti as Marcel

Veronica Lazar as Rosa

Rachel Kesterber as Christine

Three timeless classics will make their Blu-ray debut on February 15th from MGM Home Entertainment: LAST TANGO IN PARIS: Uncut Version, MOONSTRUCK, and cult favorite RAIN MAN. Collectively nominated for sixteen Academy Awards, these celebrated titles make the perfect additions to any film collection!

LAST TANGO IN PARIS: Uncut Version stars the legendary Marlon Brando (On the Waterfront) as Paul, a middle-aged American who goes to Paris after his estranged wife commits suicide. During a chance meeting with the alluring Jeanne (Maria Schneider, Jane Eyre), Paul enters into a sadomasochistic, carnal relationship with her, indirectly attacking the hypocrisy all around him through his raw, outrageous sexual behavior. Groundbreaking and controversial, the film was nominated for two Academy Awards, including Best Actor (Brando) and Best Director (Bernardo Bertolucci, The Last Emperor). LAST TANGO IN PARIS: Uncut Version features the original explicit edition

In 1972, a film titled “Last Tango in Paris” became one of the most controversial films of all time.

Written and directed by Bernardo Bertolucci (“The Conformist”, “The Last Emperor”, “The Dreamers”), co-written with Franco Arcalli (“Once Upon a Time in America”, “1900”) and a French adaptation by French New Wave director Agnes Varda (“Cleo from 5 to 7”, “Vagabond”), the film would shock viewers at the time for its sexual violence and emotional turmoil.

The MPAA gave the film an X rating and later revised 25-years later to receive an NC-17 rating.  But while the film would become a cover story in “Time” and “Newsweek” and receive notoriety, film critics such as Pauline Kael would say that the film “has made the strongest impression on me in almost twenty years of reviewing.  This is a movie people will be arguing about, I think, for as long as there are movies” (Pauline Kael, “For Keeps, 30 Years at the Movies”, pg. 455).  Her review was so popular that it was used as a double-page ad in the Sunday New York Times and film critic Roger Ebert would describe Kael’s lengthy review as “the most famous review ever published”.

Meanwhile, internationally the film would be sold out at various theaters, receive positive reviews from French publications and many would travel far just to watch the movie in France due to censorship.  Unfortunately, in Bertolluci’s country of Italy, he was put on trial for “obscenity” as the Italian prosecutor called the film “self-serving pornography”.  Bertolucci would serve a four month suspended sentence in prison and his civil rights revoked for five years, making him ineligible to vote.

And now this controversial film receives its Blu-ray release in America in its original, uncut and uncensored version.

“Last Tango in Paris” revolves around two individuals.

Paul (played by Marlon Brando, “The Godfather”, “The Fugitive Kind”, “On the Waterfront”, “A Streetcar Named Desire”) is a man who is mourning the suicide of his wife Rosa.  He can be seen looking disheveled walking around Paris with tears streaming down his eyes.

Jeanne (played by Maria Schneider, “The Passenger”) is a young 20-year-old who awaits her boyfriend, a young TV director and a filmmaker named Tom (played by Jean-Pierre Leaud, “The 400 Blows”, “Masculin Feminin”, “Love on the Run”, “Made in U.S.A.”) to come home.  For the meantime, she is looking for an apartment to rent.

Both individuals frequent similar areas but not one time did they look at each other.

When Jeanne does find an apartment to look at, she notices that the man, Paul is there.  It appears that both are looking at the same apartment and it is not known who will get the apartment first.  But yet, she stays knowing he is there and is not afraid of him.  When she thinks he does leave, he just closed the door, goes up to her and immediately starts kissing her and both have sex in the apartment.

After they have sex, the two don’t have much communication but they go on their separate ways.

For Jeanne, she is to meet Tom at the train and next thing you know, the whole interaction is being filmed by her boyfriend who wants to capture their love on 16mm, as cinema.

As for Paul, when he arrives back home, he sees the woman cleaning the bath tub that is still filled with blood after his wife’s suicide (she cut herself with a blade).

The next day, we find out that Paul has rented the apartment for several days and both he and Jeanne will have anonymous sexual relationship.  The rules are simple, no names, no talking about anything of their personal life because none of it matters in the apartment.  The apartment is for them to have sex.

Each time the two are together, Jeanne wants to know who he is but Paul reminds her to not talk about anything personal as the apartment is only for them to have sex.  They will not see each other outside of the apartment.

With Paul, we see how much sexual anger that he has when he does things to Jeanne in the apartment, whether she wants to or not, she submits.  Outside of the apartment, Paul is a much different person.  As his wife’s mother comes to visit their flop-house hotel (which Paul runs and originally belonged to his deceased wife’s parents) in preparation for her daughter’s funeral.  Paul treats her badly as she wants her daughter to be mourned in church, something he does want because she killed herself and the church does not respect those who kill themselves.  He is very condescending towards his mother-in-law and if anything, he is unsure of why his wife killed herself.  He has isolated himself in the hotel, no friends, just talking to those who stay at the hotel, including the man that his wife had an affair with.

As for Jeanne, we learn that she is the daughter of a deceased colonel, living in a nice apartment with her mother and with her boyfriend Tom who is back, he wants to marry her by the end of the week.

But while Paul and Jean have this secret sexual encounter for the next few days, how will they treat each other when they stop and see each other outside of the apartment and get to know each other for real?

 

VIDEO:

“Last Tango in Paris” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:85:1 widescreen). First, its important for note that this is a 1972 film and for the most part, I was expecting to see some aging of the film.  Surprisingly, “Last Tango in Paris” looks fantastic on Blu-ray compared to its older DVD counterpart.  I think those who watch this film will be surprised to see the amount of detail and clarity that they will see while watching this film on Blu-ray.

You can see the tears flowing through Paul’s eyes, you can see the detail of his hairy arms, right down to the blood splattered after his wife’s suicide.  There were details that I didn’t recognize at first.  Such as the messy spotting on the mirrors and for the most part, I feel this is a pretty awesome upgrade on Blu-ray.

But the picture quality is not entirely perfect.  I did notice a few debris but otherwise, the blacks are deep, skin tones are natural looking and overall, a pretty solid transfer.  And I just have to say that the cinematography for this film, courtesy of Vittorio Storaro (“Apocalypse Now”, “Bullworth”, “The Last Emperor”, “Dick Tracy”) is magnificent!

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Last Tango in Paris” is presented in English Mono DTS-HD Master Audio, Spanish Mono and French Mono.  The film is primarily dialogue-driven and features a score by Gato Barbieri.  But because it is a mono-track, don’t expect immersive sounds coming from the surround channels.  But I will say that the dialogue is clear and that the film does showcase dialogue in English and French.  I detected no problems with the audio.

Subtitles are presented in English SDH and French.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Last Tango in Paris” comes with the original theatrical trailer.

One of the most controversial films of all time has received its Blu-ray release that is uncut and uncensored.

Back in 1972, the film received an X rating, while now, it’s rated NC-17.  Reading a summary or synopsis of “Last Tango in Paris” really doesn’t give the film much justice.  For one, the efficacy of this film is in Bertolucci’s filmmaking style of giving his actors a chance to bring out the character without guidance.

For Marlon Brando, this is where he excels.  Call it improvisational, this is a man who took on the character of Paul and brought him to life.  And for many cinema fans at the time, many were clamoring for more Brando the year after “The Godfather”, so needless to say, many were shocked to see him in such a film.

As for actress Maria Schneider, you can tell that she fed off the energy of Marlon Brando.  Her character of Jeanne is a woman that has spunk.  She seems like a strong-willed individual but when she’s at the apartment alone with Paul, she seems to crave this domination sexually by Paul.  She doesn’t know what will happen and she definitely does not like the anonymity but she feels herself drawn to him or the danger of having sex with someone you don’t know and will never know.

There is no doubt about it, the character of Paul is about sexual domination.  Because of their anonymity, Paul feels he can do what he want, get what he wants and for Jeanne, she submits but she also does what she wants when she’s in the apartment.  There is no love between Paul and Jeanne, it’s literally a film about two people engaging in poisonous sex.

You may be reading this and wondering “what makes this film so controversial”?  Although there have been films since “Last Tango in Paris” that have gone even further such as Nagisa Oshima’s “In the Realm of the Senses”, you just don’t get a magnificent actor such as Marlon Brando to be in such a film.  But it happened.

You will see scenes where Paul gets a stick of butter that Jeanne has brought to the apartment and shoves it up her and sodomizes her while she cries in pain.  Another scene features Paul directing Jeanne to cut her nails and then to shove her fingers up him.

These are just a few of those sexual scenes shown through the film.  But watching it now, especially in compared to Oshima’s “In the Realm of the Senses”, while we do see Jeanne completely nude throughout the film, for Brando, he is always seen wearing clothes when he has sex with Jeanne.  I often wonder if that was by choice of the director/Brando to show his domination while in clothes and then unzipping his zipper whenever he wants to partake in sex or was it because Brando didn’t feel comfortable showing off his own skin.  Who knows?

But I do know that for 1972, this type of content for a film was shocking.  Not only do you get a film that features spectacular cinematography, wonderful direction and excellent performance by Marlon Brando, it’s very creative and artistic of how the sex was such a big part of this film but how the characters were portrayed.

And it’s quite interesting to see what happens when Paul stops going to the apartment and both individuals meet each other in reality.  I don’t want to spoil the film but it was quite intriguing.

Pauline Kael wrote “Realism with terror of actual experience still alive on the screen – that’s what Bertolucci and Brando achieve”.  She is absolutely right.  Despite Brando wearing his clothes during the act of sex, it’s just the nature of how this film was shot and how Brando transforms to this immoral being, he brings out the self-centeredness of the character.  We are drawn to his personal view of society but at the same time, repulsed by him.  It’s the efficacy of Brando’s acting that made “Last Tango in Paris” work.  Without him, I don’t even think this film would have registered as a blip on anyone’s radar.

Marlon Brando is one of the better examples of a method actor, one who takes on the persona of the character and somehow manages to live and breath that character and I wanted to know more about this.

And this is where it comes down to the Blu-ray release and my feelings that I wish there was some post-interview or special feature included. I enjoyed the Blu-ray but the fact that its devoid of any special features (especially knowing how Bertolucci “The Last Emperor” was heavy on special features), you just felt that there should have been more to this Blu-ray.   But all one is going to find on this Blu-ray release is a trailer.

Granted, this is the best looking and sounding version of the “Last Tango in Paris” to date.  It’s a no-brainer that this Blu-ray release is a wonderful upgrade but at the same time, I just wished there was more to it, in terms of special features content.

Overall, “Last Tango in Paris” is a film that definitely had an impact on cinema and for many, they consider it a Bertolucci masterpiece and perhaps Brando’s greatest acting achievement.  The late Pauline Kael has said that some people will be very angry, some will feel disgusted.  Or like her, feel that the film is not only important but resonate strongly as a film with a major impact.

Does this 1972 film still have impact on those of us today?  Probably not as much as it did back then, but if you are able to put yourself in the shoes of those who watched this film back in 1972, you can realize how bold and scandalous this film was at the time.  Will you love it or hate it?   I’ll leave that up to you.






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