Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBB.
Original title: Ultimo Tango A Parigi
France/Italy, 1972. Les Productions Artistes Associés, Produzioni Europee Associate. Story by Bernardo Bertolucci, Screenplay by Bernardo Bertolucci, Franco Arcalli, French dialogue by Agnes Varda, dialogue collaboration Jean-Louis Trintignant. Cinematography by Vittorio Storaro. Produced by Alberto Grimaldi. Music by Gato Barbieri. Production Design by Philippe Turlure. Costume Design by Gitt Magrini. Film Editing by Franco Arcalli. Academy Awards 1973. Golden Globe Awards 1973. New York Film Critics Awards 1973.
Marlon Brando plays the American owner of a Parisian flophouse whose wife has just committed suicide and left him in psychological and spiritual trauma. He randomly encounters Maria Schneider in a hotel room and the two begin a sexual affair, she spending the rest of her time appearing in a television documentary that her excitable boyfriend (an adorable Jean-Pierre Léaud) is filming. As is often the case with Brando, his dissatisfaction with the written dialogue led to him improvise many of his scenes, which means lots of long monologues that don’t always hold your interest. He and Schneider do achieve a level of fearless intimacy, however, and the film does a terrific job of creating a barrier-free interior world between the two of them in their shabby hotel room that is completely opposite to the vivacious activity that Schneider indulges in with Leaud. Bertolucci, however, is never interested in more than shallow aestheticism, which means that his delving into the souls of these people is little more than a false pretense for gorgeous photography and fancy editing. That aestheticism is highly impressive, and the film, while not always captivating, is gorgeous and rhythmic, especially in its dynamic finale. The shallow nature of Leaud’s documentary that Bertolucci pokes fun at is actually the more enjoyable half of the movie only because it feels so much more honest.