BluRay/DVD Reviews

LAST TANGO IN PARIS

By • Mar 16th, 2011 •

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Some years ago, I hosted Jack Cardiff and his wife while they were in New York to promote his autobiography MAGIC HOUR. I can still remember her calling me in the middle of the night because the street noise outside their hotel room was too loud. During the visit, I asked Cardiff, who is acknowledged as the greatest color cinematographer of the first half of the 20th century, who he felt he was passing the mantle to. He thought for a few moments and replied “Vittorio Storaro.”

It’s hard to say what element contributes more to this landmark film, Storaro’s brilliant cinematography, Brando’s daring performance (and improvisations), Bertolucci’s radical script and experimental direction, or just the fact that it was made at exactly the right time to have an artistic impact unlike anything that had hit the screen in decades. Bertolucci, producer Grimaldi, Brando and Schneider were indicted by a court in Italy for making pornography (shortly thereafter they were acquitted, but Bertolucci lost his civil rights for five years). Elsewhere the film was embraced by festivals, critics, and the public, and Pauline Kael of the New Yorker hailed it as if it were the second coming. The line of dialogue “Go get the butter” was voted # 67 of the “100 Greatest Movie Lines” in a magazine survey.

And now, thirty years later, and following the recent death of Ms. Schneider, how does the film hold-up? Well, perhaps it’s no longer as shocking, having generated a kind of freedom in cinema that has been taken advantage of in the intervening decades. But all else remains the same. Some of the musical cues and cutting seem to be nods to the French New Wave (Bertolucci later made a film about the student rebellion in France over the art of film called THE DREAMERS), but never to the detriment of the enormous talents of the cast and crew.

And the BluRay in comparison with the previous DVD release? Well, although they are close in visual and aural quality, you can trash the DVD pronto. It’s like watching the film through a hail of speckles, nicks and dirt, whereas the BluRay, in addition to being better visually, is clean.

Two gripes: The earlier release came with an 8-page booklet about the film, and an excellent trailer which made it clear how they decided to market the film in America. The BluRay has no supplementals.

And all that (rumored) harder-core footage, shot before Brando finally found himself unable to sustain an erection on camera, take after take, and insisted they reshoot the scenes, must still exist somewhere. Talk about a fun supplemental… They should have gone on a little archeological dig.

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