Project Valentine, Day 22: Last Tango in Paris


I did not like this movie.

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
LESSON - Mutual respect is necessary for a relationship to last.


Laurie said...

Perhaps you could do a month of Brando movies...

Danny said...

Say, now there's an idea. Not for a while, though. The daily movie starts out feeling like a treat, and ends up feeling like an obligation by the end of the month!

Anonymous said...

Maybe a weekly instead of daily? I just saw that Hulu plus as a whole genre that is only Criterion Collection films. That's a LOT of foreign films from the sixties and seventies.

I saw this movie years ago and don't remember much of it, although that butter scene really sticks with you. But if you really want to see Brando in top form, please watch On The Waterfront. It really is one of the best films ever made.

Streetcar is great also, but it does come across as watching a stage performance on film.

Danny said...

That was exactly my feeling about Streetcar.

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