No one caused a commotion similar to Marlon Brando in "A Streetcar Named Desire" (1951) except Marlon Brando in "The Last Tango in Paris" (1972). And he provoked it for the same reasons: the desire of Brando's body young and sweaty and then mature and fondón. In between, the virile Kowalski who oozed sex from every pore of his skin changed into a problematic, insecure male, eager to affirm his masculinity questioned in a brutal and stark manner at the scene of the cut nails. Brando experienced his bisexuality at the hands of Bertolucci, who dreamed of documenting the change of customs, the new forms of sexuality of the countercultural revolution, maintaining the standards of European author's cinema: improvisation, intellectuality, a certain hermeticism, explicit sexuality, pictorialism and an irreverent desire for «épater le bourgeois». And he got it.
The rest is legend that belongs to the sociology of cinema. If "2001: A Space Odyssey" is the most expensive film of auteur cinema, "The Last Tango in Paris" is the most intellectual film of the uncovering of "soft porn", advertisement of "hard porn" fetén. The famous "destape" had begun with "El Decamerón" (1971) by Pasolini and the "tango" overflowed the market of erotic cinema for repressed beyond the Pyrenees. A nonsense after "The Empire of the Senses" (1980).
The myth of "tango" was immediate. He ran like gunpowder in the film Brando used butter for … and imagination flew among the Spaniards who came directly from the bus to the cinema in Perpignan where one could enjoy a forbidden pleasure in Franco's Spain: the first shadows of Brando anointing Maria Schneider to penetrate her without hesitation. One and! collective of pain was heard in the audience. Two things attracted the attention of Spaniards eager for freedom: that a myth like Marlon Brando would lend himself to starring in an ambiguous and scurrilous character, getting undressed and allowing himself to be penetrated manually to the bottom, which opened a world of possibilities hitherto unimaginable for a male «comme il faut»; and that the explicit erotic scenes were shot with such naturalness that they seemed improvised, when, out of frame, a camera crew and the twilight lighting of Vittorio Storaro endowed the erotic scenes with the stark style of the Bacon paintings present in the titles of credit. As an inciter, the attentive look of Bertolucci, who maintained who knows if a relationship with the American actor. it marked the transgressions. He insinuated it. The actor did not deny it. And Maria Scheider roared, oblivious to the goings-on of the two men who used her as an inflatable doll without warning her of it. A recurring question is whether a film like "The Last Tango in Paris" would be filmed today. Why not? Who would prevent it? Different issue is if someone would want to see Brad Pitt or Leonardo DiCaprio naked, competing with the thousands of videos of homemade porn that flood the networks, with unlimited violence, and, culturally, with the artist Jeff Koons and Cicciolina immortalized fornicating in "kitsch" sculptures exhibited in the best museums in the world. The "tango" belongs to a periclitated period. A time when pornography was a socially and culturally rejected art, which the Hays code had prevented from being exhibited explicitly in Hollywood cinema. Bertolucci had the success of Roger Vadim, shocking the masses willing to be scandalized, prone to be dazzled by the butter scene because they questioned the masculinity of the male Brando, inserted in a screenplay style "cinéma vérité", whose inconsistency contrasted with the work of light of Storaro, creator of a golden aura that turned the erotic scenes of the Julio Verne street floor into a mythical space, enveloping with sensuality the sado-masochistic rawness, with homosexual overtones, of the encounters of Marlon Brando and María Scheiner. The saxophone of Gato Barbieri redoubled the sexual tango with torn melancholy while the prohibitions did the rest.