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6 Degrees Entertainment

'Last Tango in Paris' [Blu-ray]
(Marlon Brando, Maria Schneider, Jean-Pierre Léaud, Massimo Girotti, et al / Blu Ray / NC-17 / (1972) 2011 / MGM)

Overview: Bernardo Bertolucci's controversial 1973 film stars Marlon Brando as an expatriate American in Paris reeling from his wife's suicide and entering into a nihilistic sexual relationship with a young woman (Maria Schneider). The film is still shocking, not simply because of its (sometime unconventional) sexual sequences, but because Brando's protagonist needs his liaison with Schneider's character to remain anonymous, an experience not to be shared but indulged on either end.

Blu ray Verdict: I saw this when came out, as a high school student with a girlfriend. Needless to say, we both found it beyond shocking, truly horrible in its angst and rage and cruelty. Brando, a damaged and unhappy man whose life is in ruins, meets an empty and inexperienced girl, who submits to his sado-masochistic "numbers" with incomprehensible passivity.

Perhaps she is bored, perhaps she wants relief from her bourgeois life - a clinging mother and unbearably insipid boyfriend - or wants to experience something raw and new, it is impossible to say. It is like she is an empty vessel, an object, for the horrible things he does to her. There is plenty of nudity, some iconic scenes like the butter one, but few normal human emotions. The Brando character is pure despair and loneliness in an extraordinary performance.

He sets the rules: they meet in an empty apartment for sexual experimentation. They are to tell eachother nothing of their outside lives, not even their names. Their brutal meetings are interspersed with scenes from their lives, he in despair over the suicide of his wife, she on the path to a life with a filmmaker of the most idiotic pretension, filming their life yet afraid of any honest emotion with her. They are both empty and lost. It is pathetic.

Gradually, they begin to learn about the other, in particular in descriptions by Brando of his unhappy childhood. She is an innocent, too inexperienced to understand how Brando is using her and why, merely going along for the ride. Schneider is beautiful, but her character is shallow, perhaps because of her acting she is not at all interesting beyond being a pleasure object. When he tries to take it to another step, to meet outside the apartment, the ending didn't quite ring true to me, except for the casual indifference he felt towards his impending death.

Seeing it again as a man older than Brando and after so many imitations and overly brainy conversations about it, I thought that the film was still quite good. I didn't "freak out" the way I did at the first viewing, but the sadness of it all remains deeply affecting. Sex and despair are no longer shocking to filmgoers as they were when I was young, but it is great art house cinema and worth a viewing for any film buff who is interested in the history of the medium.

And, yes, there are some instances where the volume of the score and vocals seems to fluctuate slightly within a scene here on this brand new Bly ray release. But, and aside from some moments of those downfalls, there are no hisses or belches to be found anywhere - just a beautiful, cinematic score. [RC] This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.66:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.

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