Last tango in Paris, Bertolucci, 1972
or An attempt of transcending the pain
by Sorin Atanasiu
Solipsistic sexuality (God, I love this word! I mean solipsistic). The big question: Is it possible to take the pain (the death) away through sexuality ? Can sex be a therapy ? The film is a plea for your lost orgasm. It’s all internal. And it stays there. Brando doesn’t have to act. It all comes natural. It’s like breathing. I don’t care about the plot, I never cared about the plot. Plot is a pretext. The history is just psychological. Because it’s an experience. They’re endeavouring to found a new history not knowing nothing about each other. Brando’s character (a certain Paul) refuses to give names. He hates any form of identity. The identity is the very enemy of his renewal. The name is a prison. He replies like a demon: “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”. This underlines his bestial nature. Sometimes, bestiality could ease the pain.
He’s not spiritual. He opposes redemption, church, priests, God. He hates them. Maybe it’s his revenge for the existential injustice that led to his wife’s death (even if it’s suicide). He burns all the tracks that could show the way through settlement in the light of the Name.
He is in touch with Life only in the peaceful, empty room. Which might be the void that awaits for a Meaning to be given. The empty room is his empty soul. No law in it. Just a continuous passion. Free passion for everything that pleases him. Like sex with a beautiful, sensitive young woman. Apparently, he does everything for oblivion. Tormented sex could be the best way.
Schneider’s character (Jeanne) is blocked for a second. She doesn’t know what it needs to be done in a place without laws: ‘So what do I have to say and do I have to do ?’. He just invites her into the journey: ‘Come on the good ship, lollipop’. It’s like saying, ‘It’s not important to know exactly what to do, but to flow with the ship, the good ship’. He concentrates the dialogue upon the body, to the exploration of it. He stopped to believe in spirit. Maybe he never believed. His ONLY reality is the BODY. Jeanne regains her childhood, her innocence. In this room, innocence cohabits with sexuality without any problems.
Jeanne calls him an egoist, and she’s right. He is an egoist and a misanthropist. I know, he loved his wife. but she was the only person he’s ever loved. Anyway, his love for her must had been strange that she committed suicide. Now, he’s looking for any possible tricks to make the life bearable. He uses what he can.
The big warning of the film is: Human Reason is pure shit. It can not succeed. It can not solve the major problems of the existence. You are doomed to finiteness. In the end, everything goes chaotic. When the roots of your life disappear, when you’ve got no motivation, it means you run out of reasonable (artificial) meanings. You have to go authentic. And this authentic CAN NOT BE GIVEN BY REASON, which (Reason) is shit !! Reason can not cope with trauma. It can not cope with nothing essential. You have to transcend the mind, the pathetic history of yours, the headquarters of your many social habits. The society, the impersonal is what kills you for good. You need to get out. To rebuild yourself following an instinctive path. What do people do in order to hide their emptiness ? Paul confesses to his mother in law: ‘they take drugs, play music...they are afraid of the dark’…the dark in their empty soul. We are estranged and artificial beings. All the time. We learned to react through a social programme. It’s not really you, it’s a preset behaviour.
Paul’s struggle is very consuming. In the end, he tries to bring some sense in his empty room by getting a new bride. He curses afterwards the dead bride, the dead wife which is also dressed like a bride. He’s terribly upset that he wasn’t able to discover the true nature of the woman, true nature of his wife.
In the end, he pledges for identity, for a life in the country side with sun and cows. It’s probably his last bid of getting into ‘normality’. ‘Tango as a rite’. He is not going to be accepted in this new (maybe fake?) posture. Jeanne has just shot a stranger. She prefers the artificial life with that young, impersonal boy, which is the most despicable expression of stupid humanity.
Indeed, woman isn’t meant to be understood but loved.
Did I talk about us or did I talk only about my own disease projected on the film ?