Ultimo Tango a Parigi

(Last Tango In Paris)

This review is sponsored by

Details At A Glance

Category Drama Theatrical Trailer(s) Yes, 1 - 1.85:1, not 16x9, Dolby Digital 2.0
Rating Other Trailer(s) None
Year Released 1972 Commentary Tracks None
Running Time
124:15 minutes
(not 129 minutes as stated on packaging) 
Other Extras Booklet
RSDL/Flipper RSDL (71:25)
Cast & Crew
Start Up Language Selection then Menu
Region 2,4 Director Bernardo Bertolucci
United Artists
Fox Home Entertainment
Starring Marlon Brando
Maria Schneider 
Maria Michi
Giovanna Galletti
Jean-Pierre Leaud
Massimo Girotti
Case Black Amaray
RRP $34.95 Music Gato Barbieri

Pan & Scan/Full Frame No MPEG None
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Dolby Digital 2.0 mono
16x9 Enhancement
Soundtrack Languages English (Dolby Digital 2.0, 192Kb/s) 
German (Dolby Digital 2.0, 192Kb/s)
French (Dolby Digital 2.0, 192Kb/s)
Spanish (Dolby Digital 2.0, 192Kb/s)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio 1.85:1/1.66:1
Macrovision ? Smoking Yes
Subtitles English
English for the Hearing Impaired
German for the Hearing Impaired
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or
After Credits

Plot Synopsis

    Quite what on earth possessed me to stick my hand up to review yet another French art film from the 1970s, I now do not recall. Perhaps it was the fact that this was supposed to be such a classic film, I don't know. All I do know is the damn thing pretty much put me to sleep. So if you want the short version of this review, here goes: The Last Tango In Paris is French arty rubbish from the 1970s featuring a grossly overrated performance from one of the most overrated actors of his generation, with a story lacking just about everything necessary for a story to work and all plonked onto a DVD that features some quite shocking detail. Granted, the technical quality of the DVD is obviously going to reflect the fact that the film is closer to thirty years old than twenty years old, but even so this leaves a lot to be desired on just about all counts. And, as for the controversy surrounding the film - well, times have changed a bit too. Given the fact that the Italian legal system charged the major participants with offences relating to obscenity, this is actually quite tame - and we are assured by the booklet that this is the original, uncut version of the film. Indeed, I really could not note anything that I would call the least bit offensive, although the anal intercourse might just about reach the lower levels of offensive. Really, to have this film banned in Italy from 1976 until 1987 is utterly absurd in my view, and probably did more to boost the "classic" status of this film than anything that is actually in the film. Suffice it to say that in my view this is not classic film and really deserves none of the reputation that surrounds it.

    Now if you recall, if you had the misfortune to read my review of the truly appalling The Story of O, the French Soft Core Porn Filmmakers Guide makes it clear that such films must be totally lacking in story, shot in as diffuse a manner as possible and be shot in such a way so as to minimise detail. Obviously, our Italian director in Bernardo Bertolucci has read this guide fairly well indeed, as this film demonstrates many of these traits in abundance.

    What laughingly passes for the plot here - and the word is used in an extremely loose manner, believe me - is terribly indulgent, but obviously designed to suit the grossly self indulgent Marlon Brando down to the ground. Paul (Marlon Brando) is an American living in Paris whose wife Rosa (Veronica Lazar) has recently committed suicide for no apparent reason (well, at least as far as the story goes - however, living with Marlon Brando would be enough I would have thought). Paul is having a hard time dealing with the loss of his wife (apparently), although dealing with his late wife's infidelities he easily accepts. Out of the blue he meets Jeanne (Maria Schneider) in a flat and they enter into something of a relationship, based pretty much on anonymity and sex. That covers the first ten minutes of the film pretty well, and thereafter you have over two hours of indulgent garbage meandering around like a lost puppy, occasionally interspersed with further sexual activity. And to be quite blunt, if you want to check out the film for the nudity and sex, forget it - you would probably get a bigger thrill out of an issue of any men's magazine of your choice.

    This is reputedly one of Marlon Brando's greatest performances, and he copped an Oscar nomination for it (not that that means much given the obvious instances of self-indulgence from the Academy). I suppose it should be a great performance since it would seem all he has to do is play Marlon Brando. His later career has been riddled with a bunch of self-indulgent roles that have bordered on critical suicide, and in my view this is the start of that downfall. It is hard to believe that 1972 also saw the release of The Godfather, which also starred Marlon Brando albeit with the support of a superb cast including Al Pacino and Robert Duvall. Plenty of people argue that The Godfather is the greatest film of all time and there is little doubt in my mind that Marlon Brando was far better there than here. I am perplexed as to why this performance was rated so highly: perhaps the passage of time has been less than kind to this film in general, but I really see little more than adequacy here. Naturally the film is not helped by the lack of a great supporting cast, and although Maria Schneider appears to try hard, she really just comes across as a shallow, whining, spoilt brat. The rest of the cast are barely worth mentioning as they provide nothing more than a few cameos to provide some relief from the leads. Bernardo Bertolucci also garnered an Oscar nomination for this film, which is possibly even more of a mystery than Brando's nomination. I fail to see anything here that really shows distinction in direction, and the tendency to let the film meander about somewhat aimlessly I find seriously amiss. Since my viewpoint seems to be so at variance with what I had read or heard about about this film, I can only presume that I am completely missing the whole point of the film.

    If you really must have a Marlon Brando film in the collection, then I suppose your choices are somewhat limited in Region 4, but really this is a film that has not suffered well at the hands of time. The Last Tango In Paris is self-indulgent rubbish that should be avoided at all costs in my view, unless you really need a natural remedy for insomnia - in which case the film will suit you down to the ground.

Transfer Quality


    I have seen some brilliant transfers of thirty and forty year old films on Region 4 DVDs, but sadly this is not one of them. However, it should be borne in mind that Bernardo Bertolucci obviously shot the film with a certain style in mind and on the whole that style does not translate well to the digitally enhanced examination of DVD.

    The transfer is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.85:1, and it is 16x9 enhanced. The Internet Movie Database lists the theatrical aspect ratio for the film as 1.66:1, so should we ring the alarm bells? Possibly is the answer: it would seem that the United States theatrical release may have been in approximately 1.85:1, whereas the European theatrical release may have been in 1.66:1. If this is the case, and definite confirmation would be appreciated, then it is a little puzzling that we have the US ratio when the transfer uses a French master.

    Definition? Well, broadly speaking this is severely lacking anything approaching sharp definition, although this reflects both the way the film was made and the fact that it is almost thirty years old. However, it is fair to say that the transfer probably reflects the thoughts of Bernardo Bertolucci well, and therefore there is probably nothing inherently wrong with the bulk of the transfer - other than the fact that at times it really got too diffuse in the image, resulting in some instances of a quite indistinct picture that I had difficulty watching. Not aiding the transfer in any way is the quite appalling lack of detail at times: shadow detail in particular is almost non existent and on the odd occasion one is confronted with what amounts to virtually a black screen. I have certainly seen far better looking and detailed VHS tapes than this effort, and I really would not want to see this on a VHS tape at all. The film was also produced in a particular colour tone style, quite brownish, which compounds the lack of detail somewhat. The transfer is especially prone to mild to heavy grain throughout and this really does not help the definition, as well as making it a tiresome film to watch. This is not a clear transfer and there are hints of low level noise in a couple of sequences (although it has to be admitted that this may just be heavier grain).

    As noted above, the film was produced with a brownish tone to it and this really dominates the colours here. Even so, overall the colours are quite muted and there is a serious lack of relief in the form of bright colour. About the only piece of bright colour to lighten the effect somewhat is the small patch of green shrubbery outside the flat. The depth of the blacks here is most noteworthy, although this ends up being bit of a problem as it compounds the lack of shadow detail, as well as providing a perfect highlight for film artefacts. Otherwise this presents a very drab, muted Paris that hardly looks the most inviting place on earth. The entire film has a tendency to undersaturation so you really do not have to worry about oversaturation at all. The style of the film presents a colourscape that completely lacks believability - flesh tones are especially a problem.

    There did not appear to be any significant MPEG artefacts in the transfer. Film-to-video artefacts were quite prevalent throughout the transfer, most notably in minor aliasing that only occasionally becomes very obvious - the sequence between 73:09 and 73:15 for instance. There were plenty of film artefacts during the film, and these really became quite distracting when highlighted by almost totally black screens. This really indicates that there has been no restoration work conducted on the film, which is somewhat disturbing if you believe that this is one of the classic films of the 1970s.

    This is an RSDL format disc with the layer change coming at 71:25 - and a beauty it is too. It comes during a shot of a partially open door (through which Paul has just left) and other than for the fact that your player goes into search mode, it is barely detectable in the flow of the film. Very nice effort indeed (see, I could find something to compliment the film over!).

    You should be aware that even though the default on the subtitles is off, you will still see subtitles as they provide a translation for the vast chunks of French included in the English soundtrack.


    Well, at least there is not much to say about the audio transfer! Decent enough for a 2.0 effort but really not showing an awful lot of life.

    There are four audio tracks on this DVD, all Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtracks: English, German, French and Spanish. I listened to the default English soundtrack whilst sampling the other soundtracks. Even though the default is English, the soundtrack contains almost as much, if not more, French than English. This results in the subtitles being displayed even if the off option is selected for subtitles. The overall sound level of the four soundtracks is markedly different, with the German soundtrack presented in an inherently higher decibel level. The Spanish soundtrack is markedly lower in volume, whilst the French soundtrack appears to use none of the French vocals from the English soundtrack.

    You have Marlon Brando starring in a dialogue-driven film and you want the dialogue to be clear and easy to understand? Sorry, you will not get it: Marlon's mumbles infuriatingly afflict the English soundtrack badly that I was forever adjusting the volume control to be able to understand what was being said. Volume up to hear Marlon "speak" and then quick volume down so that the music did not blast my ears to buggery. One of the poorest examples yet heard in this regard, although I suspect that there was little the engineers could do to overcome this inherent problem in the film.

    When I could hear the dialogue, there did not appear to be any audio sync problems with the transfer.

    The music score comes from Gato Barbieri, and a decent enough effort it is too - nicely capturing the moody feel of the film.

    Really there is not a whole lot wrong with the soundtrack for what it is, other than it really seems to be a rather front and not quite so centre mono effort. There is no action whatsoever in the surround or bass channels, so you do not need that impressive array of expensive speakers turned on for this effort: listening through your television speaker will do fine here. Okay, the film really would not have much use for a full blown 5.1 soundtrack, but really I feel such a remaster would have opened up the sound picture a lot more and given the film a lot more depth and space to work with. This is a little constricted and needed a bit more atmosphere to convey some of the emotion that was (apparently) being generated.


    Well, a not exactly inspiring film is given an appropriately uninspiring extras package.


    Pretty poor composition is a polite way of describing these efforts.

Theatrical Trailer (1:28)

    Not so much a trailer as a collection of stills from the film, which is somewhat unusual. The quality is fairly mediocre as this is riddled with film artefacts and is prone to some rather noticeable wobble. It is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.85:1, not 16x9 enhanced and with Dolby Digital 2.0 mono sound. It is not the best that I have ever seen, and that is being polite.


    The usual eight page, reasonably informative effort that we have come to expect from MGM: thankfully this does not appear to have changed with the change in distributor.

R4 vs R1

    This would appear to be identical to the Region 1 release, therefore making Region 4 the region of choice owing to the PAL format.


    If you are a fan of the film, nothing will stop you from indulging in this package. But in all honesty the entire package is a piece of self indulgent rubbish that really does not warrant much more than a rental on a bad viewing night.

    An average video transfer, hampered by stylistic choices and the source material.

    An average audio transfer.

    An extras package of limited interest.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Ian Morris (have a laugh, check out the bio)
19th May 2000

Review Equipment
DVD Pioneer DV-515; S-video output
Display Sony Trinitron Wega 84cm. Calibrated with the NTSC DVD version of Video Essentials.
Audio Decoder Built in
Amplification Yamaha RXV-795. Calibrated with the NTSC DVD version of Video Essentials.
Speakers Energy Speakers: centre EXLC; left and right EXLR; and subwoofer ES-12XL