Marlon Brando, one of the most influential actors that there will ever be, had his 1972 feature film, “Last Tango in Paris,” which was directed by Bernardo Bertolucci, banned in Italy.
The iconic actor of American cinema history, who brought a sense of realism and authenticity to his roles, appeared in many classic films and was known for his naturalistic acting style that revolutionized the way actors approached their craft. However, one of his movies was banned for having inappropriate content, although this was not a general opinion.
Marlon Brando’s Last Tango in Paris was Highly Controversial
The Marlon Brando movie that was banned in Italy was the 1972 feature film, “Last Tango in Paris,” which was directed by Bernardo Bertolucci. The movie starring Marlon Brando and Maria Schneider, tells the story of an American expatriate named Paul (played by Brando) who is grieving over the recent suicide of his wife. He meets a young French woman named Jeanne (played by Schneider) while apartment hunting in Paris, and the two begin a sexual relationship without ever revealing their names to each other.
As their relationship deepens, Paul becomes increasingly obsessed with Jeanne, and their sexual encounters become more intense and violent. Paul also reveals some deeply personal and traumatic details about his past, including his abusive relationship with his late wife. Meanwhile, Jeanne becomes engaged to a filmmaker named Tom and begins to feel guilty about her relationship with Paul. When Paul learns of Jeanne’s engagement, he becomes angry and jealous, and their relationship spirals out of control.
Upon its release, the movie had its New York Film Festival premiere on October 14, 1972, and it earned $36 million throughout its theatrical run in the United States. In the next year, it was ranked as the seventh-highest-grossing movie of 1973. However, despite its success, the MPAA assigned the movie an X rating when it was first released in the US. In 1981, R-rated edit was issued by United Artists Classics. After being added to the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer catalog in 1997, the movie was given a new rating of NC-17.
Why was Last Tango in Paris Banned in Italy?
The film was controversial for its explicit sexual content and was banned in several countries. In Italy, it was banned for several years before being re-released with some cuts. After the movie’s release, criminal charges for aggravated, gratuitous pan-sexualism were filed in Italy.
The Court of Appeal’s final decision, handed down on January 29, 1976, mandated that the censorship commission take the movie and that all copies be destroyed. Franco Arcalli, Alberto Grimaldi, Bernardo Bertolucci, Marlon Brando, and others were each given two-month prison terms. However, they were later suspended.
Last Tango in Paris Had a Mixed Global Reception
While it was a box office success in the United States, it faced varying levels of censorship and controversy in other countries. In Italy, which also happens to be the birthplace of director Bernardo Bertolucci, the film was initially banned by the government, and it took two years for the Italian audience to be able to see it.
In France, where the film was shot, it was well-received but also faced censorship due to its explicit sexual content. Similarly, in the United Kingdom, the film faced censorship, and several cuts were made to the film to remove some of its more explicit scenes.
In Japan, the film was banned for six years due to its explicit content, and it wasn’t until 1978 that the ban was lifted. The film also faced censorship and controversy in other countries, including Spain, Australia, and Brazil. The movie wasn’t released in Spain until December 1977 since it was restricted there under the Franco administration.
The movie was completely outlawed in Chile for over 30 years during the military regime, and it was similarly prohibited in Portugal until the Carnation Revolution of 1974 when its release came to symbolize the freedom that democracy allows.
Similarly, the movie was restricted in Brazil during the military dictatorship and wasn’t released until 1979. South Korea, Singapore, Venezuela, Argentina, and South Korea are more nations that have outlawed it. The Nova Scotia Board of Censors in Canada also outlawed the movie, which led to the historic Nova Scotia (Board of Censors) v. McNeil split ruling by the Supreme Court of Canada in 1978, which affirmed the provinces’ ability to censor movies.
Despite the controversy, “Last Tango in Paris” was also praised by some critics and audiences for its cinematography, acting, and the way it explored themes of grief, isolation, and sexuality. On February 1st, 1973, the Australian Classification Board certified the movie as R and released it in Australia unedited. On January 1, 1987, Warner Home Video released it on VHS with the same rating, prohibiting sales or rentals to those under the age of 18. Moreso, the film received two Oscar nominations, including Best Director for Bertolucci, and its impact on cinema and popular culture can still be felt today.
The Butter Rape Scene Redefined Maria Schneider’s Acting Career
— ELLE Magazine (US) (@ELLEmagazine) December 3, 2016
The infamous butter rape scene in the movie “Last Tango in Paris” was a highly controversial and graphic scene that has been the subject of much criticism and discussion since the film’s release in 1972. The scene features the character Paul, played by Marlon Brando, using butter as a lubricant to rape the character Jenean, played by Maria Schneider.
The scene was highly disturbing and intense, and it is said that the actors were not fully aware of what was going to happen during filming. Maria Schneider, who was only 19 years old at the time of filming, later spoke publicly about how traumatizing the experience was for her.
Schneider revealed in interviews that she felt violated and humiliated during the filming of the scene. She had not been informed of the explicit nature of the scene beforehand and was caught off guard by the use of butter as a prop. Schneider also reported feeling emotionally abandoned by director Bernardo Bertolucci and Marlon Brando, who were both much older and more experienced than her.
The aftermath of the film’s release was also difficult for Schneider. She struggled with drug addiction and depression and found it difficult to shake off the association with the film and the notorious scene. She later said that she felt that her career had been damaged by her association with the film and that she regretted her involvement in it as she suffered emotionally and physically from experience. The controversy surrounding the scene contributes to a large extent to the film’s legacy as a highly controversial and disturbing work.