31 January 2005 | arichmondfwc
Butter or Margarine
I'm thinking of "Last Tango in Paris" today because Neznaia, a kind IMDb user, asked me to write about it and I promised I would. Now a dilemma. Shall I write as I remember the experience or shall I watch it again? Well I'm already here so I seem to have taken a decision. Butter, that was the key word that pushed crowds to line up outside the theaters all over the world. Over the years the film has been vilified as utter euro trash or acclaimed as one of the best films ever made. I think that the truth falls somewhere in the middle. Bertolucci was coming out of at least two certified masterpieces of political, social and cinematic achievement "Before the Revolution" and "The Conformist". Tango is something else altogether, cinema veritè photographed by Vittorio Storaro, a revolutionary artistic genius, Gato Barbieri's music and Marlon Brando giving himself totally in one of the most brilliant pieces of self indulgence ever put on film. Within the intellectual coldness of its intentions breaths a stunning melodrama of operatic proportions. As a side note let me tell you that legend has it that in the original script, the Maria Schnaider's character, was a boy. At the time an idea of the sort was too outrageous to even consider. Everybody was very sophisticated but not that sophisticated. Apparently the movie went on with a girl in the part but not even a coma was changed from the original. Now, look at the film again with that in mind and you will notice that everything, as if by magic, makes perfect sense. We are ask to justify Brando's first wild approach to Schnaider was an irrational reaction to the pain, the anger and confusion by his wife death. Well yes, but he is a man, she is a woman, they may be braking a few rules but the basics remain intact, unless, of course she wasn't a she. If they are a man and a girl above the age of consent why the charade of secrecy? Why she's never really dressed like a girl, always jackets and open neck shirts and why they never make love like a man and a woman, usually, do? A lot of fingers and butter and,talk. When they get to the tango scene Brando dances with a real woman while Maria Schnaider monkeys around them. And finally look at the end and tell me if doesn't make much more sense if she was a he. She could have explained everything, embarrassing perhaps I don't know, but perfectly normal. If she was a he, the son of a military man, the thing had an entirely different color. Impossible to admit or to explain for a boy. Their affair is not between two gay man but between two heterosexuals. That's the key, that's at the center of it all. A breaking of rules in the most intimate way. To go against what you have come to accept as your own nature. I may be wrong of course, but I don't think so. I will see it again as soon as I can and if I feel that this memory of the film is merely a product of what I may have been smoking at the time I will let you know. But, somehow, I don't think I will have to.