Posted by Danny at 10:57 PMLabels: Look What Danny Watched, Project Valentine
You know how sometimes you watch a movie that's acknowledged as a classic, and you understand the reasoning behind that assessment, but you just can't get on board with it at all? That's how I felt watching Last Tango in Paris.
Marlon Brando plays Paul, a recent widower who owns a hotel in Paris. He meets Jeanne when they are both looking at the same apartment, and they have an anonymous sexual encounter. They continue to meet there and have a passionate affair, but Paul insists that they never tell each other any personal information - not even names. The longer the affair continues, the farther Paul pushes Jeanne's boundaries until at last he is ready to break their final boundary - he tells her about his past, admits that he loves her and wants to know her name.
That's a very toned-down plot synopsis, and I'm leaving it purposely vague so that I don't spoil what narrative surprises the film does have in case you ever decide to see it. Why didn't I care for it? A couple of reasons. First, for a movie with many, many sex scenes, this is one of the least erotic movies I've ever seen. I get it - the point of it isn't to be sexy, it's about catharsis, but still...
Also, and I know that among my film geek friends this borders on sacrilege, there's the problem of Marlon Brando. IMDB tells me that he was in 44 movies, and I'll admit that I've only seen 7 of them, mostly from his later career. Maybe I need to plumb his earlier work some more so that I get the whole "greatest actor of his generation" hype. I think The Godfather is one of the greatest movies ever made, and God only knows how Francis Ford Coppola managed to rein Brando in for that one (especially when he completely failed to rein him in for Apocalypse Now), but watching him mumble his way through his improvised dialogue or staring at the cue cards that he had taped around the set takes me right out of the viewing experience. Don't get me wrong, I love Apocalypse Now and Brando's performance in it, but watching him in it is basically watching an exercise in self-indulgence. Again, I get that the point of Last Tango is a catharsis for Paul, but the lines Brando improvises cross from cathartic into, I dunno... juvenile. "That's your happiness and my hap-penis!" Come on.
I'm glad that I saw this, since it's one of those landmark movies, but I don't think I'll be returning to it again. Don't even get me started on the all too literal Chekhov's gun.
RATING - Two sticks of butter out of five