Monday, March 7, 2011

Last Tango In Paris

 Well how is this for a bitch? How do write about a truely great film after two horrors? They are poles apart in everyway. Since watching Brando shag the tasty Miss Schneider after the Demons scratched and gouged their way through their hapless victims, I have struggled within my mind what and how to write about it. For no matter what I write could possibly do any justice.
 I was only two when Tango was made, and find it hard to believe the stir and controversy this film aroused ( pun??!) way back then. Maybe only Stanley Kubrik's A Clockwork Orange can claim as much fame in this department. We take so much for granted today that it seems incomprehensible that screen nudity and sex once weren't the common place they are now. I mean look at the sodomy scene in The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, it is explicit and leaves nothing to the imagination and makes Brando's buttery scene seem limp ( more puns??! ). One can only imagine the outrage Tattoo's scene would have caused in 1972. As it was there were reports of women puking in theatres during Tango's sodomy effort.
 It is easy to be distracted by the sex. I mean in 1972 it was breaking all sorts of new ground in cinema but today is nothing new. For example in Monster Theron's character points out a guy who she says would probably 'like a finger up his  ass'. Brando takes a finger up the rear in 1972 and is widely condemned.
 If it wasn't appreciated at the time it has certainly come to be because Last Tango in Paris is a piece of cinematic art. For the first half an hour I couldn't get into it. I was bored and was wondering what all the fuss was about. Maybe it was because it was three in the morning and I was tiring but the more I watched the more my jaw dropped. 
 At first it was too arty farty for my tastes and I seriously came close to turning it off and going to bed. I'm glad I perservered because when this film clicks with you it stuns and smashes your face in simultaneously. The cinematography is simply unbelievable. The camera angles, the lighting, the mood, the colouring all add up to one hell of a cinematic experience. This is a film you will see more than once as it is as close to perfection as you can get.  Flawlessly filmed, it is indescribable on the eyes and stuns your senses. I have seen very little that can compare to it. You literally go from scene to scene amazed that it is possibly better than the last.  Bugger the sex ( puns puns puns!! ), Tango should be seen and remembered for its cinematic beauty, for it is as close to art as film can get.
 It is funny to think that seeing a hairy bush like Schneider's was so reprehensible in 1972. We see Maria Bello's trimmed muff in A History of Violence and there is nary a word of protest. The only thing that worried me was at first Schneider had a very square cut fringe in her initail scenes and looked all of fourteen. I don't know if it was intentional or not but it felt too Lolita like. Sure she was actually twenty and looked it with longer hair, but initially I wasn't comfortable with it. Twenty yes, but not fourteen. Maybe there is something arty in it but I have missed it. But then again maybe it was to signify that most of us guys in our forties would love to have an affair with a twenty year old. Who knows?
 The sex and cinematography are only two parts of the film though and perhaps the lesser of three components. The third is the acting. Maria Schneider I know nothing about and can only compare her on this role alone. I like her, ( and that doesn't just mean that she's got a nice pair set of breasts!!! ), she's young, natural, good looking, and has a real chemistry with Brando. I'm sure that working with Brando lifted her abilities beyond where she thought they were. Great actors/actresses can have that effect on the less gifted they work with. In Schneider's case this is important because if she was there only as a 'set of tits' then this film, no matter the greatness of Brando would have failed. Schneider's acting is an incredibly important key in this film. She had to make herself believable and I think she did.
 What can be said about Brando that hasn't been said?? The AFI rates him as the fourth greatest acter of all time behind Bogart, Grant, and Stewart. Personally I think Brando is the superior of both Grant and Bogie ( who I both love and admire) , but not Stewart who I believe was on a plan that even Brando didn't reach. But hey, opinions will always differ over who was the best etc.
 I was very fortunate to see A Street Car Named Desire three years ago on the big screen. What a priviledge on the eyes! And what a film. Brando missed out, but Leigh, and Malden both deserved their respective Oscars. To have seen his performance in Streetcar and then Tango was instructive. They were made twenty years apart but Brando had lost nothing, and in fact still had his incredible power as an actor. And of course there was still Don Corleone to come!! Tango I'm sure is rated as one of the four best films he made. It is a breath taking tour-de-force from a actor who went from just 'great' to genius.
 Tango's performance is just beyond words. Even if I tried I couldn't I get my impressions across adequately. This is an actor who had been around for over twenty years and just seemed to have got better. I was absolutely electrified by him. That famous mumbling diction, his passion, and his incredible ability to become the role, quite literallly to become someone else, has to be seen to be believed. What is somewhat hypocritical about the uproar over the content of Tango is that Brando was nominated for an Oscar for his performance. If it was so morally degrading then surely the politics of the Oscar judges would have come into play and the film over looked for any nominations. Surely the quickest way to kill anything controversial is to ignore it and not promote it with protest?? Just a thought.
 And like Streetcar Brando in Tango still had that raw animal sexual magnetism that no actor before or since has even come close to having. Even as a character of forty five we can still see and feel that power and can fully believe how Schneider's character was so seduced by him. When you see Brando in these two films it is hard to believe he became the obese, dismissive joke of his latter life.
 After my initial half hour feelings Tango took hold of my senses and gave me a real shake up. When it had finished I couldn't believe what I had just seen. It seduces ( pun again! ), it mesmerises, it stuns, and simply overwhelms you. It is an incredible experience and must surely be one of the greatest film ever made. I'm not into arty type films but this is pure, and flawless genius film making at its very best . 1970's pornography masquerading as art. Bullshit!! The controversy of Tango is dead and buried and it must now be viewed as quite simpley the cinematic masterpiece it  is.
 Watch, and be stunned by the beauty of its cinematography, but more importantly, watch Brando at his very, very best and be punched in the face by the performance of an acting genius. " Bring out the butter"!!!!!
Click here for a synopsis and many interesting facts;
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And here for a review of the times:

 There is a very good review here on blogspot that I highly recommend as well. It is well written, comprehensive, and rather authoritive.

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