Iconic, Cult and Classic Movies
One of the most controversial movies of all time, Last Tango in Paris is an erotic drama filmed by one of the most controversial Italian film directors – Bernardo Bertolucci.
The movie was met with very contradicting reviews from critics and the audience. It was assigned an X rating in the United States, 18+ movie rating in France and was banned in many countries, including Bernardo Bertolucci’s native Italy.
The film is considered one of the best Marlon Brando movies. Along with The Godfather, released the same year, the Last Tango in Paris film sealed his fate as the greatest actor in the movie history.
In Paris, a 45-year old American mourns his wife’s death. He meets a young Parisian girl and develops a sexual relationship with her in an attempt to ease his pain.
He insists they should know nothing about each other, not even names. When one day he breaks his own rule and shares personal details, their relationship changes.
When you type “Last Tango in Paris” into Google, you are automatically suggested to add “butter” to your search, referring of course to the Last Tango in Paris “butter scene”.
The focus nowadays seems to be on movie’s explicit sexual scenes. It is considered one of the best erotic movies not for nothing. However, Bernardo Bertolucci, one of the most controversial Italian movie directors, didn't think he was pushing limits with frontal nudity and sexual violence:
“I thought what was provocative in the film was the despair in the character of Marlon Brando. That was the real thing I wanted to talk about.”
Marlon Brando had just made The Godfather movie, which hadn't come out yet. In the eyes of the public, he was a relic from the past. In the eyes of the movie studios, he was trouble. The Italian movie director, however, was fascinated by the actor:
“I wanted to see who was the man behind all these masks, to get to the real man—more than the super actor.”
As a method actor, Marlon Brando often drew on his personal experiences. But the controversial Last Tango in Paris movie was by far the most personal of all Marlon Brando films.
Christian Marquand, the actor’s close friend commented: “Forty years of Marlon’s life went into that film. It was Marlon talking about himself.”
Marlon Brando was intimately involved in creating his character in this erotic drama. He spent hours with Bernardo Bertolucci discussing the movie. The famous “butter scene” was his idea. He often improvised and changed the dialogue to his liking.
Despite his very close collaboration on the best erotic drama movie, he was shocked by the final result. There was too much of the real Marlon Brando on screen. The actor said in his autobiography: “Last Tango left me depleted and exhausted. Some of the pain I was experiencing was my very own.”
The movie was a traumatizing experience for the actor: “For the first time, I have felt the violation of my inner-most self.” He refused to see the film and didn’t speak to the famed Italian movie director for years.
When the erotic drama movie came out, it created an instant buzz: was it a corny pornography film or one of the best movies of the 70’s?
The French loved it. The Americans loved talking about it. In Italy, the erotic drama film made the largest opening week profit in history. A week after its release, Italian officials banned the movie and ordered all copies to be destroyed. It was released again 15 years later.
We are used to candid sex scenes on the screen. However, one of the most controversial films of all time is not about sex. It is about emotional suffering and love. That's what makes it endure.
It is not the kind of movie you could enjoy with your parents or friends after dinner. In fact, it’s best to watch this erotic drama film alone.