brandoPerhaps it says a lot about the current state of cinema that a movie responsible for hysteria at the time of its release has resurfaced as a source of outrage forty-five years later, presumably in the absence of any contemporary equivalent. The renewed hysteria in 2016 also serves as a shrewd comment on the swinging moral barometer since ‘Last Tango in Paris’ was originally released in 1972. First time round, it was largely the serial censors of the right that singled out Bertolucci’s art-house masterpiece as a reprehensible artefact of the Permissive Society, the Whitehouse/Longford/Muggeridge Festival of Light brigade that had already got its C of E knickers in a twist over ‘Oh! Calcutta’ and ‘Oz’; today, it is the so-called ‘liberal’ left and its legion of affiliated victims, survivors and martyrs that is in an uproar. It does make me wonder how many of them have actually seen the film.

The fuss began when someone stumbled upon an interview with renowned old-school European Auteur Bernardo Bertolucci, in which he bigged-up the legend of his own movie by claiming actress Maria Schneider, whose ‘Last Tango’ character engages in a loveless affair with Brando’s grieving widower as he expresses his complex self-loathing, had no idea the film’s most infamous scene was going to happen. In it, Brando seemingly buggers her using a certain dairy product as a lubricant. Some would argue a scene in which she shoves her fingers up his arse at his request was a tad more contentious, though that didn’t follow Brando around as the butter scene dogged Schneider throughout the rest of a career that hardly set the silver screen alight. And, lest we forget, if there’s a victim, it has to be a woman.

‘Last Tango’ was one of the final gems to emerge from European cinema’s post-war golden age, an era whose films often specialised in pseudo-documentary realism at a time when the first three or four hours on the day’s shoot of a Hollywood movie were devoted to setting up the lights so that all the old actresses looked beautiful. Italian and then French cinema stripped away the soft-focus facade in the same way that the raw simplicity of Punk erased Prog’s elaborate embellishments. It produced a generation of directors whose names remain revered – Antonioni, Visconti, Fellini, Pasolini, Bunuel, Truffaut and Godard, to name just a few – and their movies still regularly fill-up critics’ lists of the greatest works of art ever committed to celluloid.

The influence of European cinema also helped revitalise Hollywood at the end of the 60s when a new wave of cinematic scholars such as Dennis Hopper, Martin Scorsese and Francis Ford Coppola gate-crashed the mainstream when television had stolen American cinema’s thunder. Few of the great movies to emerge from this fruitful pre-‘Star Wars’ period of adult creativity – ‘The Godfather’, ‘Network’, ‘All the President’s Men’, ‘Dog Day Afternoon’, ‘The Parallax View’, ‘Taxi Driver’ – have been surpassed since, and the post-Hayes Code era when Hollywood grew-up (before dumbing down) owed its existence to the cinema of Italy, France and Spain.

By casting Marlon Brando in ‘Last Tango’, Bertolucci was consciously playing the conductor of a marriage ceremony between European cinema and an American actor whose obstinate rejection of the star system had seen his cache plummet in the 60s; Brando had only just completed the film that would turn out to revive his career, ‘The Godfather’, when he received the call, so it was still a gamble on the director’s part to hire him. In the end, it was a perfect marriage; Brando arguably gave his greatest ever performance in the scene in which he confronts his wife’s body and unleashes all the rage he kept suppressed whilst she was alive.

But it wasn’t that scene that upset the Puritans when the film hit American and British screens at the beginning of 1973. What the US and UK referred to as ‘explicit sex scenes’ raised few eyebrows on the continent. Wily Bertolucci knew what would happen, of course, and he milked the outrage for all it was worth, as he has continued to do in the decades since. The idea that Maria Schneider had no idea that the ‘butter scene’ was coming or that Brando actually raped her on camera is the kind of PR hyperbole that bestowed notoriety in the 70s, but times have changed and are considerably more conservative – especially in that corner of California that has utterly lost the ability to make a movie that appeals to anyone over the mental age of twelve.

Apparently there’s an actor called Chris Evans (yes, I thought the same when I heard that name) whose CV includes the Shakespearean challenge of portraying Captain America in the latest popcorn Marvel franchise. When he caught sight of the bandwagon rolling into town he hitched a ride and proclaimed ‘I feel rage’ on Twitter, adding ‘I will never look at this film, Bertolucci and Brando in the same way again…this is beyond disgusting…they should be in jail.’

Not to be outdone, an actress we’ve all heard of called Jessica Chastain weighed in with her own public service announcement: ‘To all the people that love this film – you’re watching a 19-year-old being raped by a 48-year-old man. The director planned her attack. I feel sick.’ Another household name, Evan Rachel Wood, whose recent career move consisted of revealing she’d been raped twice, declared ‘This is heartbreaking and outrageous. The two of them are very sick individuals to think that was OK.’

Rape remains defined as penetration; as far as we know, Brando didn’t penetrate Schneider; they were acting; they were actors. It’s pretend. Maybe the current crop of ‘stars’ are so accustomed to CGI and every film belonging in fantasy-land that they can’t tell the difference between documentary and movies rooted in documentary realism. Equally, the confessional atmosphere of American showbiz and its embrace of victimhood – which reached its apex of nausea at last year’s Oscars – means a non-story such as this will inevitably be exploited by people too stupid and too wrapped-up in their own politically-correct moral crusading to appreciate a film such as ‘Last Tango in Paris’. They don’t deserve it.

© The Editor



24 thoughts on “I CAN’T BELIEVE IT’S BUTTER

  1. I heard about this absurdity thanks to The Guardian; they keep pestering me to become a “supporter” (or “subscriber” as the less self-righteous might term it), as never has the need for ‘truth’ been greater!
    It’s ironic being tapped up for cash at the same time as being peddled this made-up drivel, and I genuinely wonder how some of these writers square their articles with their consciences:

    “Last Tango’s abuse reveals the broken promise of the 1970s sexual revolution”
    “Actors voice disgust over Last Tango in Paris rape scene confession”
    “Last Tango scandal shows toxic extent of male power in the film industry”

    What mileage they squeeze out of a lie! At least Bertolucci is still around to put them in their places, but what a shame he had to waste a second of his life in so doing:

    “Bernardo Bertolucci: Last Tango controversy is ‘ridiculous'”

    P.S. Captain America’s quote is hilarious – “I feel RAGE!!!”. Must be a method-actor, still in role… described in one of those articles as “Marvel Comics actor Chris Evans” – what an epitaph!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Must say I didn’t much care for Last Tango in Paris personally.I certainly agree with the thesis that the 1970s were the golden age for mainstream Hollywood cinema. A high proportion of my favorites are from that era. There’s a level of hypocrisy in our own era judging the past given some of the plain nasty movies that have been released in recent years. ‘Donkey Punch’ , a British movie starring Jaime Winstone was released in 2008 – I haven’t seen it, and don’t wish to, but apparently the title is a reference to a violent sexual practice. Meanwhile, the French have brought us such delights as ‘Irreversible’ and ‘Baise Moi’ – neither are good films, both trade on their notoriety.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Wow.

    “”whose recent career move consisted of revealing she’d been raped twice”.

    That’s a pretty vile thing to have written. Are you really that cynical?

    “”a scene in which she shoves her fingers up his arse at his request was a tad more contentious”… AT HIS REQUEST! Consent, and all that.

    Yes, faux outrage is nauseating. But not all outrage is faux. Different people have reference to different experiences. Possibly, not the same as your’s.


    1. I don’t say being raped twice was a career move; it’s the nature of revelation, that eliciting sympathy and doing the whole Oprah ‘I have suffered; I deserve a round of applause’ mindset, that I find nauseating. I’ve had many female friends who’ve been on the receiving end of male aggression, including that, and their response to such confessionals isn’t that different to mine.


      1. We differ on this. I think you are making assumptions and generalisations: famous/wealthy/aspiring-to-be-famous-people are not allowed to have had bad life experiences; if they have, they are not allowed to talk about them; if they do, it can only be to further their career/interests.

        While I have no doubt there may be SOME people for whom that is true, I do not think it can be assumed about ALL people. It is up to the person who has had the experience what they reveal, when they reveal it and to what end. Whatever happened to compassion and the assumption of innocence until proven guilty (you get my meaning, I know this isn’t criminal… )?

        I think in our reaction to the sex obsessed current phase of victim culture, we might end up throwing out a lot of babies with the bathwater.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I agree with the point you make in the last paragraph. I’ve often said the problem with the tsunami of false allegations that have been pursued by various police forces and law firms over the past half-decade is that genuine cases are buried beneath the ‘glamour cases’, i.e. ageing celebrities or politicians. The example of Exaro’s poster-boy ‘Nick’ to me won’t enable ‘other victims to come forward’, but his evident lies then cast doubt on the real mccoy and scepticism is easily generated where every allegation is concerned as a consequence.

        As for Hollywood stars, they may genuinely feel that speaking out will help. Maybe it will, maybe it won’t. But I can’t help but be suspicious of the way in which such a confession is then marketed by the PR machine surrounding such stars, which has the potential to reduce a past trauma to little more than movie merchandise.


      3. Windsock, have you read the letter that Wood supposedly sent to Rolling Stone (and then shared with the world via the Court of Twitter)? Her message goes something like this: we live in a world of “blatant bigotory and sexism” and there’s really not much point in reporting anything to the police (and thereby increasing the chances of having rapists prosecuted) because no one’s going to believe you.

        You’re probably in for a life-long sentence of misery and, who knows, a suicide attempt or two. Still, don’t waste your time in trying to have those rapists prosecuted & save others from having to go through the same sad fate…

        What you can do instead is smear the reputation, deliberately or otherwise, of a “significant other” whose identity everyone’ll be guessing at. (Seeing as she’s had two ‘significant’ significant others we can all play chinese whispers or flip a coin to decide who the rapist is – what fun!).
        Those who know her and who work with her or move in that world will all have done the same… “Nah, it won’t be him it’ll be XXX.”

        We have nothing but a barely coherent, rambling letter full of ‘survivor speak’ and phrases straight from the psychiatrist’s couch which in their totality do no good but quite likely a great deal of harm in perpetuating the myth that no one cares about women being raped. Her message is pure poison, and I hope her fans pay her no mind.

        Maybe the ‘career move’ phrase was pushing it a bit but without the testing of her claims it’s not even clear what she might mean by ‘rape’. Could it be, for example, something like this insanity?
        Who knows? And why do we even know anything at all?


      4. I can’t resist this story, seen in the ‘Most Read’ column on the Washington Post article posted above:
        Despite the “blatant bigotory and sexism” prevalent in society here we have a woman who managed to report a nasty man to the police & have him arrested four times (“…his bail was raised to $200,000 last December and to pay it his grandparents had to offer their home in Irvine, Calif., as collateral”).

        The bastard had even alluded to the rape of the brave survivor’s daughter, she said. When it turned out that she’d made the whole thing up it was too late: “But his grandmother died before he was exonerated.”

        Oh well! Maybe someone should send a copy to the actress mentioned above and disabuse her of those pernicious beliefs that ‘no one cares, no one listens’.


      5. Bandini: Having read the link you posted to USA Today, I see that she rebuts most of the points you make about her in advance… she knew what would be said about her. And in a way, you have just proved her right.

        Her letter would seem to be motivated by the current furore around a “pussy grabbing” man to high elected office. I think she’s allowed to make that point, even if you don’t agree with it.

        If you want to get really picky, she says only she was raped by “a significant other”… that could even have been a woman, given her bi-sexuality.

        The wonderful world of sexual politics, where everyone is allowed to have an opinion about someone else’s sexual experiences – except that person, herself.


      6. I enjoy the occasional tussle, Windsock, but I have to say that effort above is unworthy of you. The idea that Wood was really taking aim at Donald Trump? Please! The Rolling Stone interview was promoting an upcoming series.

        The idea that it “could even have been a woman” who had raped her? Again, please! We know full well she’s not referring to a woman (either time).

        And this: “she knew what would be said about her. And in a way, you have just proved her right.”
        Nonsense. If you wish to imagine Wood with soothsaying abilities then I suppose you could have written that “she knew in advance that if she didn’t report the alleged rapists to the police & allowed two alleged rapists to continue prowling the streets and destroying the lives of others, only bothering to mention the events many years later whilst promoting her own work via the media then YES, there would be those who frowned upon her actions and even doubted the validity of her claims”.

        That she’s also been physically abused AND psychogically abused (she claims) makes her failure to use the correct channels for dealing with bad bastards all the more alarming. If she’s “strong” enough to say it on Twitter she can damned well tell it to the police. Bit too late for 911 but I’m sure she’d have no problem affording a lawyer to help her do the (only) decent thing.



      7. Bandini: You and I are incredibly fortunate in that we are both self-confidant enough to express our views articulately and have the confidence and wisdom to know what we are talking about, but I know that my own abilities to do that have come with age. Ms Wood seems to have been referring to experiences when she was younger, when she was not even aware that one could be raped within a relationship. She has now found a platform and an audience and maybe that has given her the confidence to speak out. Maybe she will help younger women/girls/boys than herself to appreciate that consent is necessary for every sexual act.

        Maybe she won’t.

        I don’t really know. I’m not judging her. You are, on your own very flimsy presumptions.

        I don’t need to be marked by you, It’s not a fucking test.


  4. My 2c is that I agree with Windsock’s post.

    As Hollywood is being discussed, I’m a fan of the novelist Bret Easton Ellis (who is from a Hollywood background, and now works as a largely unsuccessful script-writer) and I even listen to his podcasts, but I was very troubled when he was quoted suggesting that women who made accusations about a porno actor named James Deen MUST be telling lies, because, well (according to Ellis, and I’m paraphrasing, but only slightly) in porno, on sets, shit happens, anything goes…get over it.

    Ellis’s approach does not sit well with me. I have no idea whether the allegations against Deen are true or false. But Ellis seems to believe that just because things happen on porno sets that would be viewed as outrageous or immoral outside of them, and because Deen’s ex was allegedly (according to Ellis) somewhat unstable, then ALL the allegations MUST be false or spurious.



  5. What does everyone think of Amy Schumer though? She’s the new person we have to know about now, so doesn’t everyone think she is great? 🙂

    This Plus-Size Model Was Inspiring. But Then She Lost 100 Pounds, Which Was… Also Inspiring? Even Though She Was Already Perfect Before? But She Is Also Perfect Now?


    1. @Bandini

      Do you mind me asking, why did you put gender-fluid in inverted commas? And also why did you bring gender-fluidity, which I assume means transgender into this, as she didn’t identify herself as gender-fluid, but rather identified as female bi-sexual. (To which my response would be “so what? What of it? Isn’t everyone?” )


      1. TDF, “gender fluid” in inverted commas as it was a direct quote from the article:

        “She came out publicly as bisexual in 2011 and has called herself “gender-fluid.””

        The article which included the Twitter letter (from which I was quoting) brought ‘gender fluidity’ into it (after she had previously done so). NOW you can ask me why I’m putting it in inverted commas! Answer is that it’s a bullshit phrase beloved of the self-obsessed who think the world ought to revolve around their fleeting feelings – as I put it earlier the letter is “nothing but a barely coherent, rambling letter full of ‘survivor speak’ and phrases straight from the psychiatrist’s couch”.

        You somewhat prove the point when you say that you “assume [the phrase ‘gender fluid’] means transgender” – don’t fence xer in! You haven’t a clue what it means in this case, have you? Because there is no definition, or rather none that doesn’t come straight from the mind of a madman:

        “Gender Fluidity: Gender fluidity conveys a wider, more flexible range of gender expression, with interests and behaviors that may even change from day to day. Gender fluid people do not feel confined by restrictive boundaries of stereotypical expectations of women and men. For some people, gender fluidity extends beyond behavior and interests, and actually serves to specifically define their gender identity. In other words, a person may feel they are more female on some days and more male on others, or possibly feel that neither term describes them accurately. Their identity is seen as being gender fluid.”

        Gotta love those ‘flexible’ definitions! The rules of language (and hence logic) set by social media addicts – what could possibly go wrong?

        P.S. The answer to your question “Isn’t everyone?” is “NO!!!”


  6. TDF, if you´re around you might recall you raised the subject of the appalling Needleblog a while back. In one of those coincidences the universe occasionally throws our way the compulsive bicycle-seat sniffer today decided to celebrate the 100th birthday of a legend – by spreading evil rumours of his being a brutal rapist of an actress named Wood. I broke my fast…

    Marvel at the swivel-eyed accusations (presented as certain fact), chortle at the mad comparisons (another Savile!), wince at the pathetic back-peddalling & shameless (but pointless) attempt to scrub his tracks (“as I must be consistent – I’ll delete the comments”).

    NIce fella, eh?
    Back to being ‘banned’!


  7. @Bandini

    This isn’t news to me, I’m aware that allegations have been punted around the net on gossip forums in relation to Kirk Douglas for over a decade (and presumably, before the ‘net, in ‘real life’ places where Hollywood people gossip about other Hollywood people). I have no idea if there is truth in them. As you say yourself, who knows?

    Evan Rachel Wood is not, as far as I am aware, related to Natalie Wood, who died in a boating accident in 1981. That accident was itself (yes, you’ve guessed it!) subject to claims that it was not all that it appeared.



    1. In one of the versions of the tale it´s Dennis Hopper rather than Wood’s mother to who she turns after the fateful event; Hopper was in love with the wildchild who had led HIM (!) astray, though it was hardly an exclusive relationship by the sounds of things.

      There’s a good interview with Hopper here:
      You’ll see he had no problem appearing with the ‘violent rapist’ of his sweetheart a couple of years later:
      “I was actually closer to Douglas because he was a little more fun.”

      Never mind, I’m sure I’ll be eating my words when the great man dies and Sally Sphagnum releases a 0.3m pixel upside-down, out of focus camera-phone pic of a letter relating to an event rumored to have taken place at least six-decades previously. (The ‘m’ stands for ‘milli’, not ‘mega’.)


  8. Ok so there are conflicting/inconsistent claims, which lends doubt to veracity.

    Meanwhile Bernard Hogan-Howe has announced that 20 VIP’s remain under investigation….and a Twitter campaigner has announced that his allegations are being taken seriously by the aforementioned Superintendent of Wiltshire Constabulary.

    Ho hum!


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