In Bernardo Bertolucci’s sex-saturated, art-house classic, Marlon Brando delivers one of his characteristically idiosyncratic performances as Paul, a middle-aged American in “emotional exile” who comes to Paris when his estranged wife commits suicide. Chancing to meet young Frenchwoman Jeanne (Maria Schneider), Paul enters into a sadomasochistic carnal relationship with her, indirectly attacking the hypocrisy all around him through his raw, outrageous sexual behavior. Paul also hopes to purge himself of his own feelings of guilt, brilliantly (and profanely) articulated in a largely ad-libbed monologue at his wife’s coffin. If the sexual content in Last Tango is uncomfortably explicit (once seen, the infamous “butter scene” is never forgotten), the combination of Brando’s acting, Bertolucci’s direction creates one of the classic European art movies of the 1970s.
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