Monday, January 15, 2007

Certain movies

...are overrated. I just tried to watch Last Tango in Paris, a movie that is yet more proof that unconventionality and shock for its own sake make for an unsatisfying story. Director Bernardo Bertolucci, who also made the horrendous Dreamers, is often held up as one of the best directors of film. He is certainly talented at filming, though Last Tango didn't distinguish itself markedly from the general look of its time period, which tended towards the gritty and somewhat barren. The movie is filmed in Paris, but we don't see Les Grands Boulevards, Notre Dame, or Boulveard St-Germain, or at least, we don't before the point at which I threw my hands up in despair and turned off my DVD player. Instead, Bertolucci gives us what appears to be the 14th or 15th Arrondissement, where the Metro is elevated and the streetlife is lacking. In this world, Last Tango in Paris portrays the chance meeting of an American expatriate (Marlon Brando, who looks pretty attractive and relatively slim), and a French woman. The two begin a sexual relationship that Brando insists must have no connection to anything outside of the pleasure to be derived from such a liaison. The NC-17 rating of course means that the viewer is party to the tryst, whose scenes occupy way too much of the film's otherwise tolerable--though not great--sequences. Bertolucci has a knack for grappling with the taboo, but do incest and improbable sexual relationships really need to be treated? Do we really need to see, for instance, brother and sister engaging in incest in Dreamers, multiple times? At the very least, the determined, gratuitous exposure of such practices reveal a poverty of imagination. Anyway, on top of my disappointment with what Jean-Luc Goddard films I've seen--don't worry, I haven't given up--I cannot say I am too impressed with the French and Italian new wave that often gets held up as the pinnacle of artistry. What I have seen of these films, produced in the 1960s and 1970s, pale in comparison to their counterparts being put out on the other side of the Atlantic (i.e., the U.S. of A).

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