The best films always start off impressively or at least respectably, and then they get better (i.e., richer, deeper, more dazzling) with each successive viewing. Kubrick’s films always do this. In this sense Bernardo Bertolucci‘s Last Tango In Paris is an exception as far as my own reactions are concerned. I was so knocked out by my first viewing that I wound up seeing it five or six times within a two- or three-month period, but over the last couple of decades (and especially during my most recent viewing via Bluray) it’s been falling off and generally losing its potency. Maybe it’s because I’ve seen it too often, but portions of this landmark film almost irritate me now. I can’t stand those scenes between Maria Schneider and Jean-Pierre Leaud, for example.
So much of Tango seems to be about mood and manner and dusky atmosphere. So little of it seems to really come together in a character-driven sense. It’s a movie about mesmerizing brushstrokes. In scene after scene we’re privy to those magnificent Marlon Brando mutterings and Vittorio Storaro‘s amber-lit photography and Gato Barbieri‘s saxophone and those wintry Paris environs…aahh, fuck it. There’s too much that’s legendary in this thing. Why complain? I will always love Tango for turning me on to the paintings of Francis Bacon. I just know that it will never be as good again as it once seemed. And that’s a drag. You can’t go home again.