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'Last Tango in Paris' - Bertolucci's notorious masterpiece

"Last Tango in Paris" gained ...

Posted: Nov 27, 2018 11:03 AM
Updated: Nov 27, 2018 11:03 AM

"Last Tango in Paris" gained Bernardo Bertolucci both international recognition after its 1972 release and a notoriety that dogged the director for the rest of his life.

The film centers on a sadomasochistic affair in a Paris apartment between a young girl, played by Maria Schneider, and a middle-aged American hotelier (Marlon Brando).

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Brando's character insists that they find out nothing about each other as they embark on a sexual relationship, which ends in tragedy.

The film's graphic scenes of sex and rape shocked audiences around the world, particularly a scene in which Brando's character user butter as a lubricant as he anally rapes Schneider's character.

While the movie was banned in Bertolucci's home country of Italy, it also won the director acclaim -- after its US premiere, Pauline Kael, The New Yorker's film critic, branded it the "most powerfully erotic movie ever made."

"The colors in this movie are late-afternoon orange-beige-browns and pink -- the pink of flesh drained of blood, corpse pink. They are so delicately modulated ... that romance and rot are one," Kael wrote in her review.

"Last Tango" won Brando and Bertolucci Academy Award nominations for its improvisational nature.

A 2013 interview with Bertolucci shone a new spotlight on the infamous rape scene. The director said he and Brando conspired to use butter on the day of filming without Schneider's knowledge or consent. The aim, he said, was to get Schneider, who was 19 at the time, to feel "humiliation and rage" and react as "a girl and not as an actress."

The unearthed clip attracted widespread condemnation from actors, including "Captain America" star Chris Evans, who called it "beyond disgusting," and also brought attention to a 2007 Daily Mail interview with Schneider.

"I felt humiliated and to be honest, I felt a little raped, both by Marlon and by Bertolucci," the actress, who died in 2011, told the Daily Mail. "After the scene, Marlon didn't console me or apologize. Thankfully, there was just one take."

Schneider also said Bertolucci was "manipulative" on set and that she "should have called my agent or had my lawyer come to the set because you can't force someone to do something that isn't in the script, but at the time, I didn't know that."

The director responded to the claims in 2016, calling it a "ridiculous misunderstanding," and saying Schneider was aware of the rape scene but not of the use of butter. "The only novelty was the idea of the butter," he said in a statement.

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