2 posts categorized "Art House"

April 10, 2018

LAST TANGO IN PARIS

COLE SMITHEY

Groupthink doesn't live here, critical thought does.

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Last_tango_in_parisBorn of Bernardo Bertolucci's fantasies about carrying on a purely sexual affair with a complete stranger, Marlon Brando's Paul and Maria Schneider's Jeanne meet regularly in an empty Parisian apartment for unbridled sexual trysts. Paul insists that neither one reveal their names or express any elements of their lives outside their insular world.

Theirs is a relationship built purely on carnal intention and experimentation. The stark atmosphere that Bertolucci creates allows for sensual realism to thrive.

Lasttango

Jeanne doesn't know that Paul is coping with his wife's recent suicide. Paul knows nothing of Jeanne's obsessive filmmaker boyfriend Tom (Jean-Pierre Léaud) who is on the brink of proposing to Jeanne.

Lasttango

Written with assistance from Franco Arcalli and Anges Varda, Bertolucci plays liberally with dualities to address deep-seeded emotions that can only be expressed indirectly. Even the filmmaker’s noir-influenced image system plays with angles.

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For the first time, Paul drinks with Tom, his wife's neighbor and former lover, who wears the same robe as Paul. The over-enthusiastic Tom represents an outwardly preoccupied inversion of Paul, who tests Jeanne's temperamental boundaries in similar but altered ways.

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After revealing his identity and troubled situation, Paul tells Jeanne, "When something's finished, it begins again." He breaks the carefully guarded code the lovers have adhered to up until now. Paul's sudden turn from cynic to optimist (late in the story) must be punished. His refusal to adhere to his own rules is unacceptable. Not everything is permitted.

Lasttango

For all of the critical and public controversy about “Last Tango” being a pornographic film at the time of its release, the movie is a painstakingly theatrical mood piece that relies heavily on judiciously coded musical cues from Gato Barbieri's repeated motifs.

Lasttango

Significant is Philippe Turlure's bold art direction that draws on the work of the artist Francis Bacon. Two of Bacon's paintings introduce the film during its opening credit sequence. They influence the look of the movie’s saturated color scheme for the interior of the apartment where much of the story takes place. A two-foot high rust colored waterline surrounds the interior walls as if to suggest that the apartment had been submerged in a mixture of blood and water for an extended period during its storied past. The ravages of wars fought have left their mark here.

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“Last Tango in Paris” is a masterwork of post-modern existential angst that attempts to reconcile a depth of social existence through its sexually liberated characters.

Rated NC-17. 129 mins.

5 Stars

Mike broke out Wavy Tropics Guava Pale Ale from Kills Boro Brewing for our discussion of Bertolucci's LAST TANGO IN PARIS even if we had planned to do Lars von Trier's MANDERLAY for this, our 99th episode. Check out my silent shout-out to THE STRYPES if you go to ColeSmithey.com. Bon appetite!

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Cozy Cole

Cole Smithey on Patreon

March 21, 2018

MANDERLAY — CANNES FILM FESTIVAL

COLE SMITHEY

Groupthink doesn't live here, critical thought does.

This ad-free website is dedicated to Agnès Varda and to Luis Buñuel.

Get cool rewards when you click on the button to pledge your support through Patreon. Thanks a lot pal! Your generosity keeps the reviews coming!

Cole Smithey on Patreon

 

Colesmithey.comLars von Trier’s second installment in his Brechtian trilogy of American culture stays true to the stage bound theatrical setting of his first installment (“Dogville” 2003) even if his protagonist heroine Grace seems not to have kept any continuity from her traumatizing experiences in Dogville, i.e. multiple rapes, torture, and various humiliations, including being enslaved before ordering the massacre of a small town.

After all, murderers are humiliated by their own bloodlust.

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Perhaps that is as it should be. That was a lot of baggage. Bryce Dallas Howard takes over the role that Nicole Kidman portrayed in “Dogville,” just as Willem Dafoe fills James Caan’s shoes as Grace’s gangster father this time around.

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Under von Trier’s fluid handheld camera there is no mistaking the parable aspect of his rigorous dramaturgy, this time dedicated to a slave plantation operating 70 years pat the abolishment of slavery. If you do the math you know that it’s Depression Era 1933. You don’t have to ponder long to realize that slavery in America continues albeit under a transmogrified state of incremental genocide glossed over with pretty words such as democracy, freedom, and capitalism.

Manderlay2

So it is that our minimalist tale of colonialism, best intentions, and hidden agendas comes into microcosmic view when the headstrong Grace arrives at Manderlay in the company of her smarmy dad and his gun-toting henchmen and lawyers.

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A slave (Isaach De Bankolé) is strapped to a grate, about to be whipped by one of his white masters when Grace intercedes and takes the whip away from the brute with the aid of her dad’s goons. The plantation matriarch Mam (Lauren Bacall) appears from her mansion with shotgun in hand, but put in her place by Grace. Mam wasn’t long for this world anyway as it turns out but she does leave behind a book (“Mam’s Law”) which includes a “code of conduct” for the plantation. Most appalling, if informative, is the book’s dilatation of seven slave character types with titles such as “Proudly,” “Clownin’,” and “Pleasin’.”

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Grace decides to stay on at Manderlay in order to oversee the slaves’ transition to freedom. She keeps her father’s lawyer and a few of his guards. Under von Trier’s seven remaining chapter headings, Grace learns the hard way the unseen forces and brutal tactics that undo her naïve attempts at leading the slave community to any form of holistic equality.

MANDERLAY

Not since Ingmar Bergman’s trenchant Cinema has a filmmaker so efficiently tackled universal truths of human behavior that predictably veer toward duplicity, greed and the lowest common denominator of groupthink that priests, politicians, judges, and corporate CEOs wield under the guise of democracy. “The lesser of two evils” is still immoral, n’est-ce pas?    

Not rated. 139 mins. 

5 Stars

Cozy Cole

Cole Smithey on Patreon

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