It's almost intimidating to write anything about Bernardo Bertolucci's 'Last Tango in Paris.' Pauline Kael's analysis of the 1972 film starring Marlon Brando and Maria Schneider has been described by Roger Ebert as "the most famous movie review ever published." Her praise over Bertolucci's film is not to be missed. You can practically feel the rush of her excitement over a movie that many viewers today might not blink at -- a time where graphic sexuality is available at the click of a button.
While 'Last Tango's' eroticism is a powerful and primitive force -- and often parodied in conversation for it's famous scene involving a certain dairy product (let's just get that out of the way immediately) -- one of the more fascinating aspects that Kael focuses on is 'Last Tango's' ability to conjure an "emotional violence" that supersedes the basest of the movie's crude acts. As Kael puts it, 'Last Tango' brings into sharp focus "realism with the terror of actual experience."
Indeed, the film's depravity becomes the plot about an American man wandering Paris, so deeply distraught over his wife's suicide that he hides his grief in a no holds barred affair with a young French woman named Jeanne (Schneider). She's about to be married, but escapes her buffoonish fiancée and a cloistered past in the arms of the brutish man more than 20 years her senior. They begin to meet in a ramshackle apartment, which becomes the silent witness for the loneliness they both rut through and the turmoil in Paul's life he can only seem to express through semen and tears.