Last Tango In paris - (1972).This was one of those seminal points in the life of Marlon Brando. Director Bernardo Bertolucci was just 32 years old and Marlon was 48 and at the height of his creative powers. The beautiful Miss Maria Schneider was just 20 years old and beginning her film career. Showered with money, adored by fans and indulged beyond belief Marlon was almost at the height of his career. I would imagine he had a serious bout of "Charlie Sheen-itis" about this time in his career. (Being ill used by the powers in Hollywood)
I believe Marlon was now losing his youthful illusions of Hollywood. Instead of the creative Mecca of the world Hollywood became the cold, sordid dry Business of Hollywood that was sucking him dry of his creative juices.
Marlon had finished making "THE NIGHT COMERS" (1971) the year before in which he took on the loathsome degenerate character of Peter Quint. A morally corrupt gardner in Victorian England. Here is the plot description of "NIGHT COMERS" from IMDB:
Of course by today's standards this would be considered no more than "Rough Sex". Here's a scene from that encounter.....
The role of "Miss Jessel" was played by the beautiful English actress debuting in her very first major role opposite Marlon, Miss Stephanie Beacham. Stephani was completely deaf in one ear with only 75% hearing in the other and did a marvelous job here.
In later years she went on to become a rather beautiful and famous TV star in England.
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Last Tango In Paris was released (1972) during a period extraordinary creativity by the powers that be in Hollywood. This was one among several that would have a powerful impact on the world in which we all lived. Before the internet TV was very censored and movies were still a powerful social force and not just a visceral visual stimulus meant to excite the young as they are today.
A few of the others released in '71-'72 include such titles as "A Clockwork Orange", "Straw Dogs", "The French Connection", "Harold and Maude", "Fiddler On The Roof", "Dirty Harry", "The Last Picture Show" and one of my personal favorites "Vanishing Point" with Barry Newman as Kowalski. Worldwide IMDB lists over 3,000 titles released in 1972.
Amazing as it might seem, Marlon filmed Last Tango while concurrently filming one of his greatest roles and darkest characters developed by Mario Puzo, Don Vito Corleone in The Godfather (Also released in 1972). The three directors he associated with closely during this period were Michael Winner in THE NIGHTCOMERS, Bernardo Bertalucci in LAST TANGO and Francis Ford Coppola in THE GODFATHER. All very intense and demanding.
So one might ask how inhabiting the psyche and playing the role of such dark and twisted characters might alter one's view of the human condition? The impact was substantial on yours truly, especially from LAST TANGO. I will never be able to view the girl on Land O'Lakes Butter with toasty innocence again or spread butter on a well toasted english muffin without it degenerating into a somewhat lecherous smile of nostalgia, however fleeting.
In the opening scene, without a word being exchanged a mature Paul (Marlon Brando) is walking down a Paris Blvd. trying to come to grips with the unexpected suicide of his wife. Trying to resolve the conflicted feelings of guilt, love, lack of understanding much like PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress) over the death of someone he loved very much. At the same time a bright youthful carefree Jeanne (Maria Schneider) approaches from behind on this bright and beautiful Paris day. She is on her way to view an apartment for rent to be 'out on her own' for the first time. Paul spies the 'Apt For Rent' sign and seeing the same apt on the top floor judges it high enough for a suicidal leap.
Unknown to each other, they are on their way to the same place, destiny is waiting....
Brando playing a recent American widower whose wife had committed suicide; Schneider was the carefree Parisian engaged to marry a pompous young filmmaker (Jean-Pierre Leaud). Brando's Paul and Schneider's Jeanne meet at an apartment for rent, have a quick sexual encounter and decide to meet there again for anonymous encounters -- they know nothing about each other, including each other's name.
The most shocking scene contrived by Bertolucci occurs as Paul (Marlon Brando) grabs Jeanne and forcefully unbuttons her jeans and pulls them down while scooping up a handful of butter lubricating Jeanne's (Maria Schneider) anus just prior to intercourse with said orifice...
On the up side this encounter culminates in a delightful scrub down of the youthful voluptuous Jeanne...
Marlon was a new kind of actor, trained in the realism of Stanislavski. He combined the bruised, rebellious street poetry of his predecessor John Garfield, the sensitivity of his contemporary peer Montgomery Clift and the raw sexuality of Brando himself.
The repetition on stage doing the same show night after night bored Brando, and when he was done with the Broadway production of “A Streetcar Named Desire”, he was done with theater. It was off to the Hollywood big screen and the movies in his breakthrough role as Stanley Kowalski in “Streetcar”.
His first four years on the big screen infused post war Hollywood with new energy as his roles alternated between romanticism and realism in productions such as “The Men” (1950) when he was just twenty six years old, “A Streetcar Named Desire” (1951), “Viva Zapata” (1952) and of course “On The Waterfront” (1954).
Richard Burton, an intellectual with a keen eye for observation if not for his own film projects, said that he found Brando to be very bright, unlike the public perception of him as a Terry Malloy-type character that he himself inadvertently promoted through his boorish behavior. Brando's problem, Burton felt, was that he was unique, and that he had gotten too much fame too soon at too early an age. Cut off from being nurtured by normal contact with society, fame had distorted Brando's personality and his ability to cope with the world, as he had not had time to grow up outside the limelight.
If memory serves, Marlon did only one more film in which he was the principal player. His character Lee Clayton was played with contempt and careless disregard. I seriously doubt there many many bounty hunters in the old west that quoted Shakespeare and dressed up in various costumes.He went on to appear in many cameo roles but his creative nature was now gone as age took it's toll and time left him in it's wake. In later years he would closely resemble the character Norma Desmond played by Gloria Swanson in Sunset Blvd. (1950).
Abandoning a film set in 1975 and becoming a voluntary patient at mental hospital in Rome in order to be with her girlfriend photographer Joan Townsend. This was at a time before recognition of visiting rights in same sex relationships by hospitals and institutions.
Esther Anderson went out with Marlon Brando and was with him when he starred in Last Tango in Paris in 1972. She became great friends with the 19yr old Maria...
On the left is Maria in 2010 and on the right in 1972
Maria passed away in early February of 2011 at 59 yrs old of cancer while Marlon left us in July of 2004 at the ripe old age of 80. They left this film for us behind them.....
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