DivorceThe Last Tango in Paris Controversy Is Explained

The Last Tango in Paris Controversy Is Explained

Marlon Brando and Maria Schneider star in Bernardo Bertolucci’s eerie erotic film “Last Tango in Paris,” which explores loss and detachment. Paul, a middle-aged widower, and Jeanne, a young girl, are the main characters of the novel.

They have an intense but distant sexual relationship and do not even know each other’s names. Acting legend Brando was 48 when she co-starred with nineteen-year-old rookie Schneider in what would end up becoming her most infamous role.

The enigmatic movie “Last Tango in Paris” alternates between long, drawn-out soliloquies and immoral scenes, but one explicit sequence, in particular, raised the most eyebrows. “Bertolucci achieves realism with the fear of true experience still alive on the screen,” observed Pauline Kael in her New Yorker review. However, the filmmaker pushed this authenticity too far by fabricating a terrible real-life meeting that would distress and embarrass one of his performers.

last tango in paris controversy

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There Was Explicit Sexual Content.

“Last Tango in Paris” was first given an MPAA X rating, which was frequently a death sentence for filmmakers because it restricted the film’s ability to be seen in theatres. It was prohibited in many nations, including Italy, where Bertolucci was also accused of obscenity.

The majority of the criticism focused on a particularly gruesome rape scenario. Despite Paul’s intense desire for Jeanne, their sexual relationship is highly complicated, and he frequently acts cruelly and violently. In the famed and contentious scene, Paul lubricates Jeanne’s anal rape with butter.

For an uncomfortable amount of time, the scenario alternates between icy, far-off images of Paul lying on top of Jeanne’s exposed lower torso and agonizingly up-close shots of her horrified reaction. Paul squeezes her head tightly and angrily while Jeanne cries uncontrollably. It’s a very scary time right now.

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last tango in paris controversy

During the Filming, Maria Schneider Felt Violated.

Schneider revealed to the Daily Mail in 2007 that Brando came up with the idea to use butter as a lubricant during the rape just before production began, not the original script. Even though she was furious, she was reluctant to speak out against the seasoned filmmakers.

She said, “At the time, I didn’t know that you can’t force someone to do something that isn’t in the script, but I should have phoned my agent or had my lawyer come to the set.” She was coerced into voluntarily acting out a scene involving sexual violence by both Bertolucci and Brando, who both took advantage of her youth and inexperience. Schneider continues to talk about her embarrassing encounter:

Schneider was also shocked by how the public reacted to the movie, not just by the controversy over the material but also by how people ignored her as a serious actress in favor of fetishizing her as a sex icon.

Schneider stopped filming naked sequences as a result. Schneider fell into a spiral of drug usage and attempted suicide due to the weight of her sudden popularity; she finally recovered in 1980. She appeared in a lot of other movies, but she was always under the shadow of “Last Tango in Paris.”

last tango in paris controversy

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The # Too Movement Attracted Criticism

When Bertolucci discussed “Last Tango in Paris” in the previously unreleased video in 2016 to commemorate the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, the rape scene came under fresh fire. The director admitted that the usage of butter was a last-minute change that Brando and he hid from Schneider out of a desire for an honest response from her on screen. He stated that he wanted Maria to react in a humiliated manner and that he wanted her to feel, not act, adding that he wanted her to act like a “girl, not an actress.” Insisting that he had no remorse about how he had shot the sequence, Bertolucci claimed.

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In order to influence a young actress for the purpose of “art,” both Bertolucci and Brando willfully used their position of authority and control as older, more seasoned male professionals.

Several celebrities responded to these horrifying revelations of workplace assault on Twitter. Written by Jessica Chastain, “To all the fans of this movie: you are witnessing a 19-year-old woman being sexually assaulted by a 48-year-old guy. The attack was organized by the director. I feel unwell.” Christopher Evans retorted, “Wow. I’ll never again view this movie, Bertolucci, or Brando in the same light. This is just repulsive. I am furious.”

last tango in paris controversy

The Last Tango in Paris’ Misogynistic Legacy

The #MeToo movement has highlighted the unequal power dynamics in the film business as well as countless historical on-set transgressions like “Last Tango in Paris.” Intimacy coordinators were created as a result of this to provide a safe working environment during nudity and simulated sex scenes. These professionals serve as a bridge between actors and production. These employees can contribute to preventing future incidents like Schneider’s.

The Last Tango in Paris scandal raises questions about how actors should be treated, particularly when they have to play in sexual or violent sequences. We need to cease romanticizing method acting, for which Brando was renowned, and the notion that the real people playing the characters need to be going through a traumatic experience in order to give their finest performance.

Real psychological pain should not be associated with artistic success. Bertolucci and Brando ought to have trusted Schneider to reach that emotional state naturally and appreciated her as an actress.

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Schneider suffered mental and emotional anguish as a result of Bertolucci and Brando’s harsh acts, which involved blurring the limits between personal and professional life for their own sexist pleasure. It is challenging to see “Last Tango in Paris” without feeling a part of Schneider’s actual sexual humiliation, thus one must question whether Bertolucci’s drama is deserving of praise in light of her traumatic ordeal.


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