After Marlon Brando died in 2004, Maria Schneider watched Last Tango in Paris once again and found it “kitsch.” Watching the infamous butter scene below – in which Schneider’s character gets raped with a little butter used as lubricant – one can see why.
The “thrusting, jabbing eroticism” that Pauline Kael found so fascinating in her review of the film will feel erotic only to those who can’t spell the word “sex.”
And if Schneider was speaking the truth when she told journalists that Brando was the one who came up with the idea for the butter scene*, then the actor should have asked a body double to perform it in his place. And someone to dub his voice as well, for the dialogue delivery of the soon-to-be two-time Oscar winner sounds like nails on a chalkboard.
Unsurprisingly, both performances feel appallingly stilted – even though Schneider claimed her tears were real.
And to think that something as artificial as this scene remains one of the most indelible film sequences ever made. Not because of the psychology involved (which leaves a lot to be desired), but because of a stick of butter.
The scene feels so phony it’s hard to imagine anyone being gripped by it. Did people in the early 1970s lead such rotten sex lives that the butter scene seemed to them even remotely erotic/arousing and/or revoltingly “explicit”?
As an aside, do those people actually know the meaning of the word “explicit”?
So be forewarned: Those who are offended by phony sex scenes involving dairy products, and in which people keep all their clothes on, mumble philosophical gibberish, and cry tears of shame, should definitely not click on the “play” button below.
* Bernardo Bertolucci would later assert that he came up with the idea of using butter during the rape sequence - now generally known as the “butter scene.” That was an impromptu addition, of which Schneider was to purportedly remain unaware of until shooting began.