Saturday, July 30, 2011

Last Tango In Paris

Recently, I saw a Mexican film directed by an Australian, Michael Rowe, called Ano Bisiesto (Leap Year). The film won Camera D’Or at the Cannes in 2010, given to the best first film of a director. The story involves a woman, Laura, who goes through a series of casual sex in her apartment in Mexico city, before meeting Arturo, with whom she develops a sadomasochistic affair. The film may sound explicit, extreme and controversial, which it is (there are scenes of graphic sex, both male and female frontal nudity, and so on), but if you know your cinema, you know the template on which Ano Bisiesto works — sex and violence as a release to personal discontent, leading to a violent and disastrous end, and this happening between two complete strangers, in a closed enclosure, preferably a flat...

Did Last Tango in Paris (1972) started the trend? Not really, but it was indeed a strong influence for the future movies on similar theme. What makes the movie more controversial is the involvement of a mainstream American actor to play a character who is not really nice. Yet, when it’s Marlon Brando, he can draw out your sympathies, even if he plays a brute (Remember Stanley in A Streetcar Named Desire (1951)). Yet, he could not do it in Hollywood. He had to go to Paris and find an Italian director, Bernardo Bertolucci to tell the story of a recent American widower who begins an anonymous sexual relationship with a young Parisian woman, the wonderful Maria Schneider.

France and its open attitude towards sex and sexuality also helped materialise Nagisha Oshima’s masterpiece on the same subject, In the Realm of Senses (1976), an obsessive affair between a nobleman and prostitute in mediaeval Japan, which ends with the woman strangling her lover to death and (okay, I am not saying it.)...

It was again a French director, Patrice Chéreau, who tackled Intimacy (2001), a film based on the stories of Hanif Kureshi, about a down-and-out divorcee who starts an anonymous sexual relationship with a married woman and part-time actress before becoming obsessed with her.

And, did I mention Pedro Almodovar’s Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down! (1990)?

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