Greatest Film Scenes
and Moments

Last Tango in Paris (1972)


Written by Tim Dirks

Title Screen
Movie Title/Year and Scene Descriptions

Last Tango in Paris (1972, Fr./It.) (aka Ultimo Tango a Parigi)

In Bernardo Bertolucci's landmark and controversial erotic film, an arthouse film, about the development of a destructive relationship:

  • the scene (later in the film) of middle-aged American expatriate Paul's (Oscar-nominated Marlon Brando) anguished, out-of-control confessional (mostly ad-libbed) monologue next to his dead estranged wife Rosa's body in their bedroom, surrounded by flowers, after she had committed suicide: ("...For five years, I was more a guest in this f--king flophouse than a husband. With privileges, of course....Our marriage was nothing more than a, a foxhole for you. And all it took for you to get out was a 35-cent razor and a tub full of water. You cheap, goddamn, f--king, god-forsaken whore. I hope you rot in hell. You're worse than the dirtiest street pig that anybody could ever find anywhere, and you know why? You know why? Because you lied. You lied to me and I trusted you. You lied. You knew you were lying! Go on, tell me you didn't lie. Haven't you got anything to say about that? You can think up something, can't you? Huh? Go on, tell me something! Go on, smile, you cunt! Go on, tell me, tell me something sweet. Smile at me and say it was - I just misunderstood. Go on, tell me. You pig-f--ker! You goddamn, f--king, pig-f--king liar"); and then he turned apologetic: ("I'm sorry, I just can't, I can't stand it to see these goddamn things on your face. You never wore make-up. This f--king s--t. I'm gonna take this off your mouth. This lipstick, Rosa. Oh, God! I'm sorry. I don't know why you did it. I'd do it too, if I knew how. I just don't know how. God, I have to, I have to find a way")
Paul's Distraught Grieving at Bedside of Estranged Wife Rosa
  • the meeting of two strangers in an empty apartment: the gutter-talking, emotionally-crushed widower Paul and young, full-breasted 20 year-old Parisienne ingenue Jeanne (Maria Schneider); they had their first encounter in an empty apartment (she was inspecting it as a possible place to live with her serious film-maker fiancee Thomas (Jean-Pierre Leaud)) when she found Paul sitting in the dark next to the fireplace mantle: ("Who are you? You gave me a fright? How did you get in?")
  • the beginnings of their frequent, controversial, carnal and raw sexual scenes (becoming increasingly more vile, empty and unromantic); in the apartment, he picked her up (clothed), carried her to a window with closed venetian blinds, and forcefully made love to her standing up, without saying anything; afterwards, they both collapsed to the floor still embracing
  • Paul's insistence on having a sexual affair - conducted anonymously without names; and his set of 'no questions asked' and 'no names' rules notable for the time: ("I don't have a name....No, no, I don't, I don't want to know your name. You don't have a name and I don't have a name either. No names here. Not one name... I don't want to know anything about you. I don't wanna know where you live or where you come from. I wanna know nothing.... Nothing, nothing, do you understand?...You and I are gonna meet here without knowing anything that goes on outside here. OK?...Because, because we don't need names here. Don't you see? We're gonna forget everything that we knew. Every - all the people, all that we do, all that we, wherever we live. We're gonna forget that, everything, everything")
  • the development of their relationship that became increasingly more vile, slavish, empty, humiliating, and unromantic (i.e., "You know in 15 years, you're going to be playing soccer with your tits. What do you think of that?", and "What strong arms you have! The better to squeeze a fart out of you! What long nails you have! The better to scratch your ass with. Oh, what a lot of fur you have! The better to let your crabs hide in. Ooh, what a long tongue you have! The better to, to stick in your rear, my dear")
  • the sequence when they were hugging each other naked and coupled together, and she proposed that they concentrate - and "Maybe we can come without touching," but they were unsuccessful; then she suggested that they invent names for each other; he countered: ("Oh, God, I've been called by a million names all my life. I don't want a name. I'm better off with a grunt or a groan for a name. Do you wanna hear my name?"); after he made animal sounds, she complimented him: ("It's so masculine"), and then she made her own barnyard sounds ("Listen to mine") - and he joked: "I didn't get the last name" and they continued speaking in grunting moans and sounds
The Infamous Sodomy Butter Scene:
"Go get the butter"
  • her passive acquiescence to various sexual encounters in the apartment, including a bathtub washing sequence, and rape and/or forced sodomy scene on the floor using a stick of butter as a lubricant during intercourse ("Go get the butter"); and later, Paul reciprocated by letting Jeanne penetrate him anally with her fingers - part of his objective to "look death right in the face...go right up into the ass of death... till you find the womb of fear"
  • the scene of Paul's revelation of his past to Jeanne, including his "bad memories" and his unhappy childhood living in the country: ("My father was a, a drunk. Tough. Whore-f--ker, bar-fighter. Super-masculine. And he was tough. My mother was very, very poetic. And also a drunk. And one of my memories, when I was a kid, was of her being arrested nude. We lived in this small town. Farming community. We lived on a farm. And I'd come home after school and she'd be gone. In jail or something. And, uh, and I used to, I used to have to milk a cow every morning and every night and I liked that but I remember one time I was all dressed up to go out and take this girl to a basketball game. And I started to go out and my father said, 'You have to milk the cow.' And I asked him, I said, 'Would you please milk it for me?' And he said, 'No, get your ass out there.' So I went out and was in a hurry and didn't have time to change my shoes. And I had cows--t all over my shoes. And on the way to the basketball game, it smelled in the car. And - I don't know. I-l can't remember very many good things...")
  • the fateful scene in a tango bar, where the two became increasingly drunk together and made toasts: ("Let's have a toast to our life in the hotel...Let's drink a toast to our life in the country. Huh?"), and he suggested that they dance - and also that they could start their relationship anew, but she was ready to end things because she was going to get married: ("What's the matter with you? It's finished....We're never going to see each other again. Never!"); during their disrupting dancing during a tango competition, they were thrown out: ("You'll have to leave, sir!")
  • the shocking finale set in her mother's Parisian apartment, where he playfully donned her late father's Army cap (he was a colonel in French North Africa). When he removed it and confessed his love for her, she was horrified and fearful. Jeanne semi-accidentally shot Paul in the stomach with her father's Army revolver in her hand; he stumbled onto the balcony where his last simple act was to remove his chewing gum from his mouth, and then he collapsed and died in a fetal position
Paul's Death - Collapsing on Balcony in Fetal Position
Jeanne's Rehearsed Confession
  • her glazed, wide-eyed mantra as the film ended - Jeanne muttered the last lines of the film to herself (in French, translated below), rehearsing her lines that she would have to deliver to the police to explain his death (rationalizing and reassuring herself that it was self-defense when the stranger attempted to rape her): ("I don't know who he is. He followed me in the street. He tried to rape me. He's a lunatic. I don't know what he's called. I don't know his name. I don't know who he is. He tried to rape me. I don't know. I don't know him. I don't know who he is. He's a lunatic. I don't know his name")

First Encounter in Apartment

Another Meeting: "No Names Here...I Wanna Know Nothing..."

"Maybe we can come without touching"

Paul's Revelation of "Bad Memories"

Frequent Nakedness: Bathtub Washing Sequence

Drunken Toasts to Each Other in a Tango Bar


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