Film Club - Last Tango in Paris

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The Modernist

Re: Film Club - Last Tango in Paris

Postby The Modernist » 06 Apr 2009, 17:45

Actually it's really refreshing just to hear someone say they don't like a film on a film club thread. We haven't had much of that.

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Re: Film Club - Last Tango in Paris

Postby Davey the Fat Boy » 07 Apr 2009, 21:28

You know...it is interesting. I was not a big fan of this film before choosing it. As you know I essentially used my turn at bat to experiment a bit with the whole film club idea, but I was not unhappy that this film was chosen in my poll. I had been meaning to revisit it and was hopeful that a good film club discussion might help me get a better hold of it.

Strangely...I think the fact that I watched it this time knowing that I was going to have to write about it really did the trick on its own. I was able to pull back from viewing it as a film about the behavior of its characters - which is where I used to get stuck - and instead see it in more poetic terms.

From the very beginning, I asked questions that I did not ask in the past. What, for instance, was the meaning of those two pictures in the title sequence?

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I didn't have an answer that worked for me until hours after seeing the film again. Then I stared at them a while and it all kind of fell into place. The first was a man as he truly is. The second is man inhibited...on stage. I began to see the entire film within that framework. Even the small details (my favorite being the little mocking homage to Jean Vigo in a scene between Schneider and Leaud).

Again...for all my chronicled hero worship of Brando, I did not come to this as a huge fan of this film. But having just had the key turn for me a bit I cannot help but want to be a bit evangelistic and implore those of you who are stuck where I was to look again from a different angle.

I think it is a legitimately brilliant film and one worthy of a lot more discussion than this.
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Re: Film Club - Last Tango in Paris

Postby Snarfyguy » 08 Apr 2009, 14:48

martha wrote:I personally find it irritating and barely watchable yet pretty brilliant.

Well put!
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Re: Film Club - Last Tango in Paris

Postby Davey the Fat Boy » 08 Apr 2009, 15:42

martha wrote:
Davey the Fat Boy wrote:You could make the same basic argument about discussion of any work of art. Talking about any film won't change it, and maybe everything outside of the actual work is bullshit.


I don't mean it in that obvious a way though. I mean that THIS film, this one unique work of art, is meant solely to be felt, and not discussed. Discussing it feels dishonest and pretentious. I think essentially this is a film about feeling. And it's meant to be felt. It's meant to be experienced. It's just not meant to be talked about.


I don't disagree. Certainly I felt more than a little pretentious when I was wrting about it.

But you did just discuss it...and very eloquently at that.
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The Modernist

Re: Film Club - Last Tango in Paris

Postby The Modernist » 08 Apr 2009, 19:03

How do people feel about the sections with the director boyfriend?
I know all sorts of thematic arguments can be made as to its importance to the narrative, and I like the idea suggested in Martha's post of him as a kind of mirror image of Paul. But putting that kind of analysis aside for one moment, did they work for you in terms of your own viewing pleasure? I've always found them a bit silly and at most work for me as a kind of light relief from the intensity of the Paul scenes. I have a feeling though Bertolucci intended them to be more integrated than this would suggest however, and as such I do find them a weak point of the film.

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Re: Film Club - Last Tango in Paris

Postby Snarfyguy » 08 Apr 2009, 19:38

Dr Modernist wrote:How do people feel about the sections with the director boyfriend?

I took them to be comic relief. The rest of the film is so relentlessly serious and intense where the boyfriend is kind of like this dumb puppy or something - just worlds away from Paul.
Jimbo wrote:Look, all I know is pretty much what I get from Robert Parry over at Consortium News.

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Re: Film Club - Last Tango in Paris

Postby Davey the Fat Boy » 08 Apr 2009, 21:43

Snarfyguy wrote:
Dr Modernist wrote:How do people feel about the sections with the director boyfriend?

I took them to be comic relief. The rest of the film is so relentlessly serious and intense where the boyfriend is kind of like this dumb puppy or something - just worlds away from Paul.


What intrugues me about them is that I think we'd really find the same exact scenes charming...even kind of moving, in another context.

I think most of those scenes (absent the last one - which is a key scene in the film as far as I'm concerned) are the film's weakest link. But no so much because they don't work, but because I think he indulges in a bit of critique on cinema as opposed to the larger topics he is tackling the rest of the time.
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Re: Film Club - Last Tango in Paris

Postby The Modernist » 13 Aug 2010, 12:07

bump for moving.

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Re: Film Club - Last Tango in Paris

Postby The Write Profile » 27 Feb 2011, 07:35

Okay, I picked up a cheap copy of the DVD and have finally seen it. It might well be the last of the big "great" 70s films I hadn't seen yet, most of them I devoured aged 17 to 20, after reading Easy Riders, Raging Bulls and stocking up on the Pauline Kael anthologies. And it was this film that inspired arguably Pauline Kael's most famous review of them all. And yet looking back, it's astonishing that it was this film which was the one that sent her over the edge, critically speaking. True, she had been working towards it, the breathless style she imbues this review is remarkably similar to her similarly-notorious championing of Bonnie & Clyde and M*A*S*H. Given Kael's love for films that valued passion above all else, and her distate for pyschoanalysis, maybe it's because this is a film that seems to act entirely on instinct. Because there are parts where it is a complete mess.

What I will say is that Brando's performance is unlike any other I've seen by him- it really is all over the shop, and it seems to belong to the "first thought=best thought" school of decision-making. You could write chapters on the way he uses his hands in this film alone. Whether it's his harmonica playing, or the way he fiddles with the razor before shaving himself, or even his gestures during that monologue by her wife's corpse. It's as much what he does verbally as non-verbally. And yet his character seems to be a bundle of contradictions, capable of odd, tortured poetry, surprising sensitivity, but also sheer infantalism: think about the moment where he and Schneider talk about their farts, for instance. Maybe it's the way the camera moves around that room, sometimes elegant, sometimes jagged, sometimes holding the viewer in a rather uncomfortable (ahem) position. But that one room seems as vast as anything Bertolucci achieved in the Conformist, and it's in those moments where he gets close, I think, to what he's aiming for.

As for Schneider, I can't imagine a different actress in that role: Dominic Sanda, breathtakingly beautiful though she is, would've been too wise, too knowing. Here, Jeanne only seems to know on some level what she's doing, but I think it's the one level that matters. (And it goes without saying that she has a quite magnificent body) The scenes involving her and the director boyfriend are so out of kilter because they're so obviously contrived- but as Davey said, in another film, they would've been charming. Certainly the way they're shot seems to draw attention to their artifice. And the dialogue is frankly unbelievable, I mean, what sort of film is he shooting?

Ultimately, I find the viewing experience disjointed, it's all about gestures, intimations. Everyone talks about the monologue, but I think Brando's best piece of acting is his semi-confrontation with his dead wife's lover, it's at once oddly tender and strangely aggressive, and ultimately highlights how pathetic the pair of them are. And what about that coda? The first thing to point out is how Brando, who for much of a film wears a tattered jacket and generally downplays his looks, suddenly looks very handsome in a weathered sort of way. And in another situation his attempts to court Schneider here would be considered charming: after all, he makes all the right moves, is funny, wry, self-effacing, energetic and even debonair (well, apart from the part where he moons that dance instructor!)...and yet the whole section is oddly frightful.

When I first saw I felt it like it played like a dream sequence plonked into the film, I mean, you're utterly aware how impossible his attempts to bring their relationship into the "real world" would be...just look at the pair of them. And what's up with Brando putting on about three different accents in this sequence (one of them seems to be an impersonation of Laurence Olivier!)? What inspired him to do that? It's so important to the film and yet I don't know what to make of it, maybe it's trying to say something about romance as depicted in films, or just the very problems with bringing baggage into anything. And then Brando parks his chewing gum on the balcony....

It's not my favourite Bertolucci film- the Conformist is too aesthetically and thematically perfect for it to be anything else-but it's certainly powerful. Kael hailed it as a "Movie breakthrough" and yet I don't think it really paved the way for anything, except as marking the end of something. No wonder so much of it plays like an elegy.
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Re: Film Club - Last Tango in Paris

Postby Quaco » 31 Jan 2017, 19:04

The Modernist wrote:
Belle Lettre wrote:Er..going back to the discussion about Jeanne's father,Davey, I took it that she found Paul's wearing the hat to be an insult too far against her father/the family/some combination thereof. Or am I being too literal?

I've forgotten how he was said to have died, as I'm going by the last time I saw the film as I haven't had a chance to watch it again for Film Club. If it was in military action of some kind that would account for her own grief and sense of loss.


I would certainly say her father is very important in this and you are right to point out the significance of her shooting Brando at the moment he wears her father's helmet. I don't see it as simply mourning for her father however or protecting her family's honour, I see it as much more complex than that. Her attitude towards her father reminds me of that Sylvia Plath poem where she casts her father as a fascist, while admitting incestuous feelings towards him. I think Jeanne is similarly conflicted. This may be one reason why she involves herself in a masochistic affair with a much older man. She seems both attracted and repulsed by her feelings, and passively allows the various degradations almost as punishment for these feelings. I don't think it is too much of a Freudian stretch to speculate she is inviting the punishments and the sexual attention from her father.
It is important to note that she comes from a bourgeouis background, and like many young Europeans of that time rejects this background whilst simultaneously also being attracted to the secure protective certainties of childhood. She is a child of '68 and politically radical ( she wants to name her son Fidal). Her family on the other hand are associated with older, reactionary politics, this is spelt out clearly to us through the racist references made towards arabs by her mother and the housekeeper (who talks proudly of the father training the dogs to attack arabs only!). We know the father was a colonel in the army, although it's not stated explicitly, I think we can assume he would have served time in Algeria suppressing the independent movement. I think to Jeanne he would have represented this colonial oppressor and within the context of the times the enemy, but at the same time she feels guilty of her attraction towards him.
There's certainly lots to talk about! I'll come back later with a wider appraisal of the film.

Interesting to note that when they are drinking at the tango club, Jeanne is recalcitrant and is resistant to Paul's ideas -- going to the country, etc., most of which he is presenting hoping to entertain her -- not even wanting to dance. That is, until he hikes her up onto his shoulders like a child, at which point she becomes incredibly free and happy. It's a magical moment, and the dance which follows is wonderful. It does seem that she is happier playing as a child than discussing things as an adult partner. Perhaps this is part of her makeup and feelings about the loss of her father?
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