Bernardo Bertolucci’s Last Tango in Paris is an uneven, convoluted, certainly dispute-provoking study of sexual passion in which Marlon Brando gives a truly remarkable performance.
Brando plays an aging Lothario trailing the debris of a failed life who has wound up in Paris married to an unfaithful hotelkeeper. Pic opens on the day of his wife’s suicide when the distraught Brando meets a young girl (Maria Schneider) while both are inspecting a vacant apartment. After a sudden, almost savage sexual encounter, Brando proposes that they meet in the apartment on a regular basis. Brando insists that no names or personal information be exchanged, that the affair remain purely carnal.
Plot has all the ingredients of a 1940s meller. Bertolucci uses it to explore the psyche of a man at the end of his emotional and sexual tether and at the same time to investigate on the most primitive level the chemistry of romantic love.
Schneider is standout as the girl, a difficult role played semi-tart, but one whose motivations remain cloudy through the murderous finale.
1973: Nominations: Best Director, Actor (Marlon Brando)