Movie Recommendations: One to See and One…Not So Much

This Movie Sucks
Maria Schneider and Marlon Brando Wallow in Self Loathing in Last Tango In Paris

How many times has this happened to you? You read glowing reviews or hear endless hype about a supposed Cinema Classic from the ‘60s or ‘70s that you’ve managed to never see, either because you were too young/not born yet when it was initially released or it’s never been available on DVD before, or maybe just because you sensed it was not going to be your thing.

But after years of people telling you how great this film is, you figure it must be at least worth seeing, since it was nominated for an Academy award for Best Picture, or so-and-so won a Best Actor Oscar for his role or whatever. So, you add the film to your Netflix queue and get all excited when it arrives because you are about to see the Greatest Movie Ever Made! But after all the years of anticipation, it just ends up being aggressively terrible and sucking wildly.

That’s how I felt when I wasted over two hours of my life that I’ll never get back watching what is certainly one of the most overrated pieces of pretentious Art House crap ever put to film: Last Tango in Paris.

Last Tango in Paris was released in 1972 and earned a scandalous X-rating at the time, due to the film’s controversial, “highly erotic” and sexual subject matter. But let me tell you something: the only thing shocking about this movie is how bad it is. While there’s quite bit of (female only) nudity, which gets pretty boring after two hours, there are exactly three sex scenes, two of which involve no nudity, and one of which is a rape scene.

The two main characters, played by Marlon Brando and Maria Schneider, speak in improvised non sequiturs throughout most of the film and they usually end up sounding like a couple of mental patients. Although the acting is pretty decent, both characters are hugely unlikable. On the up side, the street shots of Paris are lovely.

Here’s why I think Last Tango in Paris (which even now mysteriously carries the NC-17 rating) was ever rated X: full-frontal bush shots. Because, you know how offended Americans are by pubic hair. The best part of the entire film is the last scene, where Schneider’s character shoots Brando in the gut. If you haven’t seen the film yet, don’t read that last sentence.

Great Movie!
Shannyn Sossamon, Patrick Fugit and Shea Whigham star in Wristcutters: A Love Story

A film I can recommend is a new release called Wristcutters: a Love Story, starring Patrick Fugit, Shannyn Sossamon and Tom Waits. Wristcutters is dark comedy about what happens to suicides in the afterlife. For a movie in which every character has, as they say “offed” themselves, it manages to be hilarious, intelligent and, ultimately, really sweet. I loved it. If you live in NYC Wristcutters is playing at the Quad Cinema on 13th Street between 5th and 6th Avenues.

2 thoughts on “Movie Recommendations: One to See and One…Not So Much”

  1. The fact that it makes us uncomfortable means that it’s achieving its goal. We’re not supposed to like the Brando character. Anyone not disturbed by him is probably a sociopath. The antihero thing was big back then. Which perhaps makes this one of those films where you had to be there at the time.

    Like a lot of movies that have lots of atmosphere but leave the viewer feeling unsatisfied, it would have benefited from a good script editor, not only to eliminate some of the worse dialog but to tighten up the flow.

    It would’ve been even more radical if they’d gone with the original script (hard to believe it was scripted, I know, considering some of the dialog), where the Maria Schneider character was a young man, which casts the butter scene in a whole new light.

  2. I saw Tango when it was released back in ’72. I had some problem with not being able to figure out what was going on in the story. I think I went cuz I knew there would be some nakediddity in the film, highly intellectual as I wuz. I was 17, so whaddya want? Little did I know that less than 10 years later in Santa Monica that I would be riding down in an elevator with Marlon and his young kids Christian and Cheyenne. Apparently Marlon and I had the same dermatologist. First, I thought he was some fat bum, his clothing was tattered, wearing cheap dirty tennis shoes and his hair unkempt while sporting a week-long beard growth. He was mumbling about “pre-cancerous lesions” or something. I recognized his voice and froze. Wow. I didn’t say a word and as we exited the elevator, then walked towards a glass door, he opened it, held it open for me and said “After you, sir.” I replied “Thanks!” while inside I was thinking “Wow. One of the last BIG Hollywood icons! This is serious business!” Within the last few years, after his death, I wandered into my favorite Mexican bar/restarurant and one of the regulars had just come from Brando’s estate sale where he had purchased a pair of Brando’s pants. He held them up and stretched out the waist… you could have fit a Volkswagen bug into those suckers!

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