Thursday, April 26, 2012
He Made Me Do It: Last Tango In Paris and Saint Jack
This is He Made Me Do It.
This is a movie challenge featuring Brad and Richard choosing movies for each other to watch.
This could get ugly.
Warning: Contains some spoilers.
Richard: I want you to see Last Tango in Paris because it is one of my favorite films of all time. Yeah, I know it's a dirty movie but it is one of the least sexy dirty movies ever made in my opinion. Marlon Brando in this movie... Damn. This performance makes we wish he had completely retreated from the public eye forever. Forget The Godfather, this is, for my money, the best the man had to offer. And don't let that grim tone and all that morbid dialog fool you, Last Tango is one of the most life-affirming pieces of cinema I have ever seen. I hope you see what I see when you see this film. Life is a ballroom dancer and you can make fun of her garish outfit and death-mask makeup all you want but she will be tangoing long after you're gone.
Brad: This is one that had escaped me over the years. I love Bertolucci's The Conformist so it was just a matter of time before I got around to it so I thank you for forcing my hand. The first thing I noticed was cinematography by Vittorio Storaro. Now I'm super sold because Storaro is, in my opinion, the best cinematographer that ever lived. The opening scene with Brando screaming under the train set the tone very well. Before I go on I'd like to ask you to elaborate on your "most life-affirming pieces of cinema" statement.
Richard: It's complicated. And maybe it's more of how the film makes me feel. I think a lot of the answer lies in the cinematography you mentioned. How could any movie that beautiful not be life-affirming? Mainly, I think Jeanne and Paul reject life when they make their little pact and have their anonymous affair. The results are fucking disastrous. After Paul breaks that pact and attempts to form a real relationship with Jeanne... Well, you know the result. Once you're dead, you're dead. You can't change the rules and come back and be a real person.
Brad: Excellent point. I think Paul is dead from the get go. I think he only became alive when he declared his love for Jeanne at the end. His face changes. His life changes. It ends. So while the end results are disastrous I think that 5 seconds are the best of Paul's life that we see in the film.
Richard: Nice. I think the message of the movie is "No glove, no love."
Brad: Most films you can't truly absorb in one viewing and that is especially true of this one. I think Brando's mid period is far more interesting than his early days. I'll see this one again.
Brad: You should see Saint Jack because it is one of the 70's most underrated films. Can you really have too much Ben Gazzara? Bogdanovich made two films in a row, this and They All Laughed, that did not get the distribution that they deserved. Denholm Elliot proves that he was much more than the bumbling Marcus Brody of the Indiana Jones films. I know you are a fan of The Killing of a Chinese Bookie and this is a great companion piece. Bogdanovich should have had a big comeback with this character piece about a pimp in Singapore. Sadly it is not as well known as it should be.
Richard: It took me a really, really long time to get around to Saint Jack because I had a feeling that it would have been ruined if I tried to watch it too soon or checked it out when I wasn't in the mood. So I finally got to it the other night and it couldn't have hit me more perfectly than it did. When the credits were rolling and I saw that Bogdanovich was directing with Roger Corman producing, my mind just started reeling. I was like "I know absolutely dick about where this film is going!" What can I say? Saint Jack is all drunk smiles, bro hugs, and manly tears for me. I love the happy-go-lucky street smart loser that Ben Gazzara is the master of. The film has an excellent comedic edge to it with all the grittiness to make it feel more realistic. Also, I love how it ends as it begins. Classic. And you're absolutely right about this being a companion piece to The Killing of a Chinese Bookie which is an old favorite of mine. Excellent recommend, sir.