The Last Tango in Paris: Revolutionary Storytelling in the 70s

For many, the film “The Last Tango in Paris” by director Bernardo Bertolucci defined the way sex scenes were portrayed and told in cinema during the 70s. With the French New Wave movement influencing the storytelling and visual techniques of the time, Bertolucci pushed the envelope with a raw, explicit portrayal of the human body and sexuality. In this blog post, we will explore the impact of “The Last Tango in Paris” on the art of telling erotic stories, delving into the film’s innovative approach in terms of narrative structure and character development.

The Nouvelle Vague influence on “The Last Tango in Paris” is evident in its use of non-linear storytelling and jump cuts, which help to convey the rawness and urgency of the characters’ sexual encounters. Rather than following a traditional linear narrative structure, Bertolucci used these techniques to create an atmosphere of immediacy and realism, allowing viewers to experience the physical and emotional aspects of sex through the characters’ perspectives.

The film’s explicit portrayal of physical intimacy was groundbreaking for its time, and it marked a distinct departure from the sanitized, romanticized sex scenes of traditional Hollywood movies. Bertolucci did not shy away from showcasing the naked bodies of the characters, nor did he eschew taboo subjects such as BDSM, fetishes, and non-traditional body parts. The result was a raw, gritty depiction of human sexuality that was both shocking and liberating.

The scene in which Marlon Brando surprises Maria Schneider with an anal penetration was a particularly controversial moment that caused widespread outrage and condemnation. In hindsight, the scene is rightfully criticized for its lack of consent and for the fact that Schneider was not prepared for it, but it also raised an interesting question about the use of erotica as a tool to challenge societal norms and expectations.

In terms of character development, “The Last Tango in Paris” broke new ground by depicting its protagonists not as archetypal heroes or villains, but as complex, flawed individuals with their own desires, fears, and vulnerabilities. The film’s portrayal of sexual encounters as messy, emotional, and sometimes even violent, was a reflection of the characters’ inner turmoil and their struggles to connect with one another on a deeper level.

“The Last Tango in Paris” was a game-changer in the way that sex scenes were portrayed and told in cinema. Its use of non-linear storytelling, explicit visuals, and flawed, relatable characters marked a departure from the traditional Hollywood formula and paved the way for future filmmakers to explore sexuality and erotica in a more realistic and nuanced manner. While it is not without its flaws and controversial moments, “The Last Tango in Paris” remains a landmark achievement in the history of cinema and a source of inspiration for erotic writers and filmmakers alike.

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