For whatever reason the Criterion guys have posted Pauline Kael‘s landmark review of Last Tango in Paris, which appeared in The New Yorker on 10.28.72. Maybe it’s been sitting there forever, but for the time being it obviously helps MGM Home Entertainment’s Tango Bluray, which streets on 2.15.
My favorite portion: “We all know that movie actors often merge with their roles in a way that stage actors don’t, quite, but Brando did it even on the stage. I was in New York when he played his famous small role in Truckline Cafe in 1946; arriving late at a performance, and seated in the center of the second row, I looked up and saw what I thought was an actor having a seizure onstage. Embarrassed for him, I lowered my eyes, and it wasn’t until the young man who’d brought me grabbed my arm and said, ‘Watch this guy!’ that I realized he was acting.
“I think a lot of people will make my old mistake when they see Brando’s performance as Paul [in Last Tango]; I think some may prefer to make this mistake, so they won’t have to recognize how deep down he goes and what he dredges up.”
As legendary as Kael’s review is/was, there are certain phrases in Norman Mailer‘s 1973 essay on the film that are burned into my brain tissue. It’s shame that the piece isn’t online (or doesn’t seem to be — I’ve searched and searched and it won’t turn up) but I can recall two passages, both about the fully-vertical, fully-clothed scene when Brando and Maria Schneider first slam ham. Mailer described it as Brando “cashing the check that Stanley Kowalski wrote 35 years ago.” Describing the instant when Brando tears off Schneider’s panties, he wrote that “the cry of that fabric is the most thrilling sound to be heard in world culture since the four opening notes of Beethoven’s Fifth.'” If anyone can find this article, please forward.