Last Tango in Paris

1972

Last Tango in Paris

Critics Consensus

Naturalistic but evocative, Last Tango in Paris is a vivid exploration of pain, love, and sex featuring a typically towering Marlon Brando performance.

84%

TOMATOMETER

Total Count: 38

76%

Audience Score

User Ratings: 24,529
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Last Tango in Paris Photos

Movie Info

In Bernardo Bertolucci's art-house classic, Marlon Brando delivers one of his characteristically idiosyncratic performances as Paul, a middle-aged American in "emotional exile" who comes to Paris when his estranged wife commits suicide. Chancing to meet young Frenchwoman Jeanne (Maria Schneider), Paul enters into a sadomasochistic, carnal relationship with her, indirectly attacking the hypocrisy all around him through his raw, outrageous sexual behavior. Paul also hopes to purge himself of his own feelings of guilt, brilliantly (and profanely) articulated in a largely ad-libbed monologue at his wife's coffin. If the sexual content in Last Tango is uncomfortably explicit (once seen, the infamous "butter scene" is never forgotten), the combination of Brando's acting, Bertolucci's direction, Vittorio Storaro's cinematography, and Gato Barbieri's music is unbeatable, creating one of the classic European art movies of the 1970s, albeit one that is not for all viewers. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

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Cast

Darling Legitimus
as The Concierge
Maria Michi
as Rosa's Mother
Gitt Magrini
as Jeanne's mother
Catherine Sola
as TV Script Girl
Mauro Marchetti
as TV Cameraman
Dan Diament
as TV Sound Engineer
Peter Schommer
as TV Assistant Cameraman
Stephane Kosiak
as Small Mover
Gerard Lepennec
as Tall Mover
Michel Delahaye
as Bible Salesman
Laura Betti
as Miss Blandish
Armand Ablanalp
as Prostitute's Customer
Jean-Luc Bideau
as Barge Captain
Mimi Pinson
as President of Tango Jury
Ramon Mendizabal
as Tango Orchestra Leader
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Critic Reviews for Last Tango in Paris

All Critics (38) | Top Critics (8) | Fresh (32) | Rotten (6)

  • When Brando improvises within Bertolucci's structure, his full art is realized; his performance is intuitive, rapt, princely. Working with Brando, Bertolucci achieves realism with the terror of actual experience still alive on the screen.

    Jan 2, 2018 | Full Review…
  • An uneven, convoluted, certainly dispute-provoking study of sexual passion in which Marlon Brando gives a truly remarkable performance.

    Dec 7, 2007 | Full Review…

    Variety Staff

    Variety
    Top Critic
  • The operatic extravagance of Bernardo Bertolucci's style has emerged more clearly since this 1972 drama, which still managed to seem vaguely naturalistic in the midst of its extravagant camera moves and eccentric construction.

    Dec 7, 2007 | Full Review…
  • Bernardo Bertolucci's controversial drama is actually a dark, torrid masterpiece about love and grief.

    Jul 17, 2007 | Rating: 4/5 | Full Review…

    Jamie Russell

    BBC.com
    Top Critic
  • Nobody makes sex films like this any more.

    Jul 14, 2007 | Rating: 4/5 | Full Review…
  • It's Brando's film: his monologues devastate.

    Jun 24, 2006 | Full Review…

    Dave Calhoun

    Time Out
    Top Critic

Audience Reviews for Last Tango in Paris

  • Sep 29, 2014
    "He said, 'I ate the last mango in Paris, took the last plane out of Saigon, took the first fast boat to China, and, Jimmy, there's still so much to be done.'" Forget you, Jimmy Buffett, for ruining this film's title, and thank you, Bernardo Bertolucci, for having that title completely ruin the humorous direction that one lowbrow guy might take by pointing out how ris-kay something sounds. Jokes on you, obnoxious dude, because this film already is ris-kay, perhaps even taboo, not so much because it's about anonymous, periodic sex, but because it sees an Italian celebrating Paris. Speaking of which, looking at this film and "The Godfather", it appears that 1971 was the year Marlon Brando really got into pseudo-Italian cinema, which sounds a whole lot more exciting than calling 1972 the year Brando finally decided to get freaky for the ladies, when he was middle-aged and flabby. I just love the irony in the fact that Maria Schneider, discussing this film, emphasized that it was "Burtolucci" who "was fat and sweaty and very manipulative" (Jeez, and I thought that Brando was a jerk to his directors), although, in her defense, Brando was still a little ways away from being old and fat in this film. I'm surprised he didn't end up evolving to that point by the end of principal photography, because the rough cut, alone, was absurdly sprawling, although Burtolucci was wise enough to recognize that this story doesn't have the scope of something like "1900", so instead of making this drama about a middle-aged widower bumping uglies with a hot Frenchwoman over five hours long, he only made it... over four hours long. Jeez, and at a little over two hours, this film, while decent, is too long and dull, although that might provide time for a little more exposition. Now, don't get me wrong, I'm all for the casual sex... uh, by which I mean that I understand the significance of the ambiguity in the characterization to the leads that has us getting to know the characters as they come to know each other, but by thinning the secondary characters as borderline inconsequential, the range of the character-driven narrative is limited more than it ought to be, while spots in the leads' exposition prove to be too ambiguous for the good of your investment. The missteps in characterization make it a little harder to get passed the unlikable traits within the flawed leads, just as they keep the film from being fleshed out enough to feel completely distinguished, without falling into near-aggravating conventions that range from plot tropes to a problematic abuse of an artistic license. If this drama isn't something of an art film, then it is just way too blasted European in how it's tells its story, not getting flashily overstylized, but relying much too much on naturalism and aimless meditation for a sense of cinematic substance to thrive. I would find the film's doing a whole lot of nothing, for the sake of some sort of artistic expression, so much more forgivable if there wasn't so much blasted dragging to Bernardo Bertolucci's and Franco Arcalli's script, because as much as I've jokingly expressed relief about the definitive version's shaving a whopping two hours off of the rough cut, said definitive version, at roughly 130 minutes, is way too blasted long to be driven by monotonous chatter and patterned plotting. The film drags its feet something awful, no matter which version you see, and to make the pacing all the more glacial, Bertolucci's direction carries a certain intense thoughtfulness and slow-burn clip that, when backed by all of the aimless dragging, and by the pseudo-artistic meditations on nothing but naturalism, dull things down, often into all-out tedium. The film freshens up your investment recurrently enough to endear with very compelling moments, but when effective material lapses, engagement value falls flat, and no matter how good the acting is or how beautiful the film is, the final product either engrosses or flirts with mediocrity. Either way, the drama is underwhelming as artistically and structurally misguided, and yet, what it does right proves to be engrossing, whether it be complimenting dramatic value to a certain extent, or establishing outstanding aesthetic value. In this slow-burn, largely quietly naturalist drama, Gato Barbieri's score is unevenly used, and when it is brought to prominence, it sure is worth waiting for, as it, with light modern classicism and a couple of creative jazzy parts, compliments the subtle artistic integrity of this drama through a unique and often mesmerizing beauty. Such praise can also be applied to an aspect that is, of course, much more prominent in this under-scored affair: Vittorio Storaro's cinematography, which is utterly breathtaking with its very Italian, very striking palette, which stresses somewhat sunny coloration to illuminate every shot as portraitist, particularly in shots that actually emphasize light as stunning just about beyond belief. The storytelling style is problematic, but when it comes to musical and visual style, this film is incredibly beautiful, and that's fairly endearing, holding some degree of your investment, until Bernardo Bertolucci, as director, secures it, upon finding realization in his thoughtfulness by not getting too caught up in artistic meandering, and by finding material amidst his celebration of the tasteful style in order to draw you in, with resonance that brings life to the potential of worthy subject matter, at least at times. This story is minimalist enough in concept, without being interpreted with a questionable style, at the expense of extensive development and tight pacing, but this subject matter about two people escaping their personal struggles by beginning a new, initially anonymous and strictly sexual relationship that may reach emotional breakthroughs and enlighten the individuals on their respective situations and feelings for each other is rich with a potential that is ultimately betrayed by misguided direction and writing, but only to an extent. As I said, there are times in which Bertolucci's direction really comes to life, but the film really shines with Bertolucci's and Franco Arcalli's scripting of the interactions between the lead Paul and Jeanne characters, for although the characters' interactions with their other peers have their highlights, and although a lot of the chatter between the leads is monotonous, with moments of lowbrow comic relief and utterly trashy references (Pretty much any scene involving butt stuff is ridiculous), the dialogue, sometimes translated into French by Agnès Varda, is witty and memorable, typically anchoring characterization that is usually so lacking, but found in the leads' interactions with the utmost nuance. As the leads come to know each other on more than just a sexual level, you come to recognize the true human depths and nuances of the central focus of this film, which would have been so much better if it kept consistent with that kind of smart storytelling, backed by more dynamicity and liveliness, which isn't to say that there isn't some sense of humanity maintained throughout the course of the film, thanks the portrayals of the leads, for Marlon Brando and Maria Schneider, on top of sharing impossibly sparkling chemistry, deliver on individual charisma and dramatic effectiveness, with Schneider capturing the vulnerability and spirit of a young woman who comes to distinguish her independence, while Brando really stands out, in one of the better performances of his career, cutting through all of the potentially unlikable aspects of his often crude, deviant and slightly selfish character (Character? That sounds like Brando in the '70s) with devastating moment of emotional intensity that capture the frustrations, denial and instability of a widower seeking something rejuvenating in miserable, confusing life. When Brando and Schneider shine, the film itself is at its brightest, so it should go without saying that material is limited in this, in certain areas, flat affair of overblown artistry and limp pacing, for the final product, through all of its strengths, falls pretty decidedly into underwhelmingness under the overwhelming weight of its misguidance, met with enough inspiration in style and substance to render the final product decent, with some pretty compelling moments, limited in quantity, though, they may be. When the tango is done, the final product all but collapses into mediocrity under the weight of too much expository ambiguity, too much familiarity, and too much misguidance in a meandering artistic naturalism whose dullness is exacerbated by monotonous, if not aimless dragging and atmospheric cold spells, but on the backs of beautiful score work, breathtaking cinematography, moving directorial highlights, and worthy, character-driven subject matter that goes brought to life by smart moments in scripting, and by electric chemistry between and performances by Marlon Brando and Maria Schneider, "Last Tango in Paris" stands as an adequately engaging and sometimes engrossing, if often distancing drama about escapism and the mystery of people. 2.5/5 - Fair
    Cameron J Super Reviewer
  • Jun 12, 2014
    The most bizzare Marlon Brando movie ever. Last Tango actually could look like a typical movie with Brando, but with much more heavy and raw material. The jawdropping surrealista and sometimes involuntary hilarious dialog bring much more genius status to this piece. It's quite weird because, it's a boring film, but also present entertaining scenes. I liked specially the last half hour of movie. Because of that I give a higher note. A very very weird film, maybe if for that I liked too.
    Lucas M Super Reviewer
  • Nov 20, 2013
    Bertolucci's claustrophobic look at the "love" between Brando and Schneider is often grotesque and unrewarding. Both characters seem doomed to their circumstances and fate.
    John B Super Reviewer
  • Nov 25, 2012
    A powerful and affecting drama from Bernardo Bertolucci, Last Tango in Paris, with its graphic depictions of sex and sexual violence, is driven almost entirely by Marlon Brando's gripping and passionate performance as a depressed widower. His performance in Last Tango may very well be his best, and he makes the movie not only incredibly emotional but also very haunting. The ending will undoubtedly linger in your mind long after the movie ends, and perfectly concludes such a controversial but artistic movie.
    Joey S Super Reviewer

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