The following conversation, or happening, as Bertolucci prefers to call it, took place in the middle of June 1966 when he was just beginning work on the script for his new film, Natura contra Natura. It is translated, slightly condensed, from a tape in Italian.
In Last Tango there is a quite plain idea—it’s very nearly a film with a message: sex as an instrument of power divorced from tenderness or curiosity results in chaos and despair.
Bertolucci is trying to transcend the audience appeal of his lyrical, psychological films. He is trying to make a people’s film by drawing on the mythology of movies, as if it were a collective memory. 1900 is a romantic moviegoer's vision of the class struggle—a love poem for the movies as well as for the life of those who live communally on the land.
In this film, one knows that Bertolucci knows who he is and what he’s doing; young as he is, he's a master director. Except for the unconvincing and poorly staged concluding sequence, the flaws in The Conformist are niggling.
This movie expresses what it means to be young with the lyricism and narcissism and self-consciousness of the intelligent young.
What is particularly striking about the film, once we get over the sight of Marlon Brando performing anal sex, is that it is, in disguise, the most political of Bertolucci’s films so far—his most ambitious attempt to integrate Marx and Freud.
Last Tango in Paris is an important film because of the way it deals with film history. By showing the inadequacy of and parodying two recent influential film styles, 1950s Hollywood and French New Wave, Bertolucci critiques and condemns the outmoded ideas and attitudes which informed these styles.
In this review of Last Tango in Paris, Norman Mailer offers an extensive critique of Bertolucci’s film on the basis of Marlon Brando’s compromised acting.
by Bosley Crowther The vast attention that Bernardo Bertolucci’s Last Tango in Paris received while it was several months in the making and when it opened in the fall of 1972 was not due to the prospect of its being a likely worldshaking film. It was because Marlon Brando was [...]