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.
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 [...]