With its launch in 1972, "The Last Tango in Paris" immediately aroused confusion and intense public reaction. The film was considered pornographic and perhaps justified, against the backgrounds that the movie industry knew at the time.


Today, the viewer would probably not be shocked, but as we talk about the 70 years, censorship was ruthless. In some places it was screened with cropped scenes and in others it was completely banned. Even criminal proceedings have been instituted for its obscene content. And the interest of the audience was so great that people from other European countries traveled to Paris just to watch the movie. Later, "The Last Tango in Paris" became one of the eternal classics of cinema and is regarded as a supreme achievement in the career of its creator Bernard Bertolucci.


The story is about the relationship between a middle-aged American (Marlon Brando) and a young Frenchwoman (Maria Schneider), who meet in an apartment in Paris, and their vicious affair begins there. The apartment, as an anonymous space lurking in the bile turmoil of the city, where intimate secrets of the human soul are revealed, is a common motif in other Bertolucci films. It is a symbol of the inner dimension of man in opposition to the external environment. There, the characters are liberated from the context of society, purified from the influence of the culture that dares to grind the personality, and remain free in the expression of their primordial nature. There is no furniture in the apartment, there is nothing secondary.


Through the language of metaphor, the film makes sense of the relationship between the man and the woman, suggesting the psychological mechanisms that give impetus to the attraction. The age of the characters is not accidentally chosen. In many dialogues, the girl speaks from the position of her youth - inexperienced, often submissive to the point of view, and the man disputes her every argument. His mysteriousness and experience awaken her senses and culminate in frantic longing. Unlike her fiancé, who bored her with her gaze fixed on her. This idea is expressed in a magnificent allegorical way. At their every meeting, her fiancé carries a camera. He is making a movie about Janey (Maria Schneider) and his lens is forever attached to her face.

The fascination with the unknown is intensified by the opposition Europe - America. Jane is French, and Paul is American - "hardened" Europe and "modern" America. Here is a question that is also relevant in Nabokov's Lolita: Is "old" Europe corrupting "young" America or vice versa? But unlike Lolita, in Last Tango in Paris, the age of the characters is reversed. The European is young and the American is mature. In the end, both stories end in a passion killer.

In many of the scenes, Jane is naked and Paul is dressed. This makes us even more aware that they are not equal. Nudity means vulnerability and disclosure, while dressing is inviolable and therefore controlling. We see a typical relationship between the dominant and the subordinate, which would not have become so obvious without the famous scene of oil and rape. In it, Paul repeatedly forces Jane to hand him the oil, and she refuses, until she finally agrees, though angry, and probably angry not at Paul but at herself for not being able to resist him. This is most clearly illustrated by the monstrous power he has over Janey, and for which she eventually kills him.

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Can we then say that "The Last Tango in Paris" is a harbinger of that book and then the movie "50 Shades of Gray", where the theme of intimacy dominance is central? There are similarities, but the difference is that Tango is born at a time when the topic has not yet emerged from the shade of the taboo and is therefore not closed within any culture. Thus, the film manages to talk about the dominant-subject couple entirely from a psychological point of view.


While "50 Shades of Gray", as a typical product of pop culture, works with a standardized category called BDSM (psychosexual subculture based on erotic power exchange and sexual intercourse), which is exactly what happens with every mass something - it becomes a product, it is labeled, and it becomes generally accessible and easy to understand, emphasizing certain external symbols more than its deep essence. In this way, the 50 shade of gray treats BDSM culture as a deviation from the norm that is inherent in a select circle of people. In order to be preferred by more people, it must become fashionable, simplify and have its own specific visualization.

Last Tango in Paris, for its part, portrays partner dependence as a human trait, a kind of our nature that is not isolated but, on the contrary, intertwines with other aspects of our nature and finds its place in a wide range of behavioral patterns that shape the palette from self-manifestations. Bertolucci then traces the evolution of this addiction to its degeneration into sexual aggression and true pathology.


The topic of domination and humiliation goes beyond the screen. Maria Schneider shares that the oil scene was not scripted and she really felt raped by both Marlon Brando and Bernardo Bertolucci. Although the sex wasn't real, she did experience real horror and humiliation that left her traumatic for life. The case of Maria Schneider, even more pronounced than the film itself, raises the ethical question of the boundary between perversion and violence.


Naturalism in The Last Tango in Paris is expressed not only through the plot, but is also present in the aesthetics of the film. Bernardo Bertolucci is inspired by the paintings of Francis Bacon. The tone in the scenes imitates that of the paintings. Bacon paints human skin resembling raw bare meat. And Paul's figure must resemble that of an artist, faced with an existential crisis.

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