Last Tango in Paris on Blu-ray
by Jef Burnham
Now available from MGM Home Entertainment.
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More so than MGM’s concurrent Blu-ray releases of Moonstruck and Rain Man, Bernardo Bertolucci’s masterpiece Last Tango in Paris absolutely required an HD upgrade— one that was long overdue. As with the Moonstruck Blu-ray, this is not the best transfer I’ve ever encountered, plagued with sporadic debris and the occasional anomaly in brightness fluctuation which may or may not in fact be a flaw in the transfer. However, when compared side-by-side with the previous DVD release of Last Tango, the improvement is easy to see. Color and contrast are beautifully captured, and the richness in the original film stock stands out wonderfully. This release faithfully maintains the film’s original mono soundtrack, but in DTS HD Audio the film’s score in particular is highlighted to great effect.
The film itself is an erotic exploration of the human condition and the thinking man’s paradoxical quest for both companionship and isolation. It should be noted for those unfamiliar with the film, that Last Tango is a highly sexualized picture and is indeed appropriately rated NC-17. The primary narrative focus of the film is a sexual experiment between two strangers (Marlon Brando and Maria Schneider) who coincidentally show up to look at the same apartment and form an immediate animalistic bond. When the two rent the apartment to perpetuate their anonymous sexual encounters, the question becomes: can this wounded, 45-year-old widower and this pampered French beauty maintain a relationship unhindered by the conventions of societal interactions? And if so, is it enough? Marlon Brando delivers one of his greatest, most powerful performances in Last Tango— one that ultimately earned him an Oscar nomination. And Brando and Schneider are joined by Jean-Pierre Leaud (Francois Truffaut’s The 400 Blows) as Schneider’s stifling fiance.
As with the previous DVD release from 1998, there are no special features here, which is indeed tragic. Such a landmark film as this would seriously benefit from a historical retrospective focusing on the film’s lasting impact, but alas, we go without. Fortunately, Last Tango in Paris is a film that speaks for itself.
Jef Burnham is a writer and educator living in Chicago, Illinois. While waging war on mankind from a glass booth in the parking lot of a grocery store, Jef managed to earn a degree in Film & Video from Columbia College Chicago, and is now the Editor-in-Chief of FilmMonthly.com.
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