I don't know how to write about sex. Not that I'm a prude; I'm just not mature. Anytime my writing veers anywhere close to the territory of fuck-town—which, surprisingly or not, is not too infrequent an occurrence around here—I can't fight the urge to thrust my dick...jokes into the welcoming, moist, tightness that is my writing (OK, this doesn't even qualify as a double entendre).
Maybe my whole love affair with fuck humor is just a security blanket, a way to compensate for my lackluster sexual history. Now I ain't exactly a newb, but I ain't a Don Juan either. As far as sexual prowess/knowledge goes, I land somewhere between this guy:
and this guy:
I think I'm just worried that were I to attempt to discuss sex in any meaningful manner, I'd come off sounding like this:
Then again, it could just be that fucking is fucking funny, and I like my fucking funny fuck writing.
Anyway, regardless of the reason, I knew my shortcomings, writing-wise, and so decided to enhance my abilities, writing-wise, and review Last Tango in Paris, Bernardo Bertolucci's erotic exploration of blah, blah, blah. When choosing movies for this Blind Spot series, I purposefully picked some films I knew would be difficult to write about. I didn't want any easy tasks. After all, the only way to get better at whatever it is you do, is to practice that aspect of it that you suck at the most (technical talk here, of course). And I suck at being mature when it comes to writing about fucking.
Now this don't mean, of course, I'm averse to serious, adult pictures about fucking. Far from it. The biggest reason I avoided Last Tango in Paris for this long is quite simple: The prospect of seeing a middle-aged Brando getting his fuck on, for some reason, never enticed me in the slightest. Of course, Brando sex ain't the only thing that kept me from this movie.
As you know from my previous Blind Spot post on A Streetcar Named Desire, I kind of have mixed feelings as concerns the ego machine that was Brando. Yes, in his prime (the 1950s) the man was an unstoppable acting machine, firing on all cylinders, with nary a false note nor incoherent acting choice among his plethora of vaulted performances; but by the time the nineties came around, he, well...
And so, Last Tango in Paris, existing as it does at about the midpoint in Brando's career, left me worried. Would I see some early warning signs of the Brando that was to come? He would, after all, destroy the otherwise flawless Western The Missouri Breaks, less than half a decade later. Last Tango would be iffy territory.
Good news first: Brando delivers a compelling, believable performance. Although he indulges in the kinds of seeming batshit improvisations that would mar another movie, his choices here ring true for the most part. Also, most of the sex scenes in this movie, as well as the pillow talk, felt surprisingly real.
And now the bad news.
Before I get into any plot description (Brando begins an anonymous affair with a young Parisian woman [Maria Schneider]) let me just state this upfront: In perhaps the most infamous scene from Bertolucci's picture, Brando ass-rapes his ostensible sex partner. I'm sorry; I can't think of any more genteel way to state it. This scene is as brutal as it sounds. In every scene before this, we are led to believe that Brando and Schneider are both willing partners, feverishly exploring every sexual desire. But here, in a savage act, he horribly violates her. And so, despite any of the film's virtues, I couldn't look past this despicable act by Brando's character. It was hard for me to see him as anything other than, well, despicable (I don't know; maybe that was the point of the movie).
And after doing some research on the movie (yes, Wikipedia counts as research—fuck you), I found out that Maria Schneider's tears in this scene were genuine. The scene was improvised on set, and she did not want to take part in it. Schneider, like her character, felt violated. This knowledge, in retrospect, made my viewing of the movie an even grosser affair. I just can't condone that kind of exploitation of a performer, no matter the quality of the final product.
Yes, I'm sure there's probably a whole bunch of intricate sexual politics kind of stuff—and meaningful symbolism and whatnot—a'happening in this movie that I could write about; but I guess I'm just none too smart or sophisticated enough to get stuff writ about such things. (So much for my stated purpose in writing about this movie.) I couldn't get past the wrongness of that one particular scene; which, for me anyway, lent an air of wrongness to the whole movie—yeah, like I said, that may have been the point, but I wouldn't feel right recommending this film.
And so, because my review lacked the insightful dissection of sexual material that was my aim when writing this piece, I thought I'd close with some of my lame jokes on the pull-quotes used in the trailer for this movie.
"A landmark in movie history" (Because there's so much fucking in it)
-The New Yorker Magazine
"The greatest acting performance of Brando's career" (Now brace yourself for the rest of his career)
International (Fancy) Edition
"This must be shown" (This is the best you can do, pull-quote-wise?)
-London Evening Standard
Fuck if I know how to rate this.