Blu-Ray Review: Last Tango In Paris

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With a boast that “the passion is even hotter on Blu-Ray” printed on the box, Last Tango In Paris arrives with the promise of something worth getting excited about.  The film’s plot is described using words such as “scandalous” and “scintillating.”  All of this together could be seen as pretty enticing, and didn’t seem to match the dark nature of everything I’d heard about the film.  I mean, I knew the stories about the film, and how stars Marlon Brando and Maria Schneider had trouble coping with the aftermath of making the film, both comparing the making the film to being raped.  I’ve seen pictures of the protests and read a great deal of the divisive literature written about the film.  And I knew about the graphic sexuality that was the undercurrent of the controversy.  For these reasons, I never had any desire to see the movie.  While I try to love all cinema, this one just seemed like too much for me.

So, as I went into the film, I wasn’t sure what to believe.  Would it be as uncomfortable as I feared?  I guess the answer is yes, but not really for the reasons I expected.  While there is a lot of graphic sexuality in the film, I found the script to be just as disturbing.  This is the story of Paul and Jeanne, two broken individuals who decide to pursue an anonymous sexual relationship in order to work out their psychological issues.  They meet every day in an empty apartment Paul rents, and the only rule is that they can never know each other’s names or anything about their personal lives.

Paul is recovering from the suicide of his wife, while Jeanne is engaged to a young filmmaker, and is miserable.  The torrid nature of their trysts provide some sort of outlet for the darkness within.  However, when the rules are broken, everything changes.  As I said, the sex is very uncomfortable, and there is nothing “passionate” about it, as the box seems to indicate.  This is a very cold and disturbing movie.

It’s hard to discuss a movie like this without getting too graphic.  I’ll just say that the film is controversial for several reasons, and rightly so.  This is a very adult film, and not one for people looking for a good time.  I can appreciate the film, and the artistry behind the scenes.  It is a powerful story, masterfully acted and directed.  Brando even got an Oscar nominatin for his performance.  However, despite the talent involved, I really don’t feel like this was a movie I needed to see, and it’s one I will have a hard time recommending to people.

As for the Blu-Ray release, everything about it is adequate.  I wasn’t blown away by the picture or the sound, but with a movie like this, I wasn’t expecting to be.  This is a very minimalistic film, and as such, so is the presentation.  As for extras, I was shocked to find that the only feature included is the trailer.  There is so much history involved in this film, I was really expecting a lot more.

I love film history, sometimes as much as the film itself.  I love knowing the context of a film’s release, and while I’d already familiarized myself with this one, I would have appreciated some sort of look back at the film from a historical perspective.  A trailer just isn’t enough these days.  Despite the fact that it is a film classic, I just can’t recommend this particular release.