The most notorious scene from Bernardo Bertolucci's Last Tango in Paris (1972) has set off another wave of outrage. Not so much the scene itself, in which Marlon Brando's Paul pins Maria Schneider's Jeanne to the floor, face down, and then uses a dab of butter as a lubricant before forcing himself into her, as the way Bertolucci chose to direct it—with Brando's consent, but not Schneider's. The anal sex is, of course, simulated, but as Schneider told Lina Das in the Daily Mail back in 2007, "I felt a little raped, both by Marlon and by Bertolucci."

She says they told her how the scene would play out on the morning before they shot it. "I should have called my agent or had my lawyer come to the set because you can’t force someone to do something that isn't in the script, but at the time, I didn’t know that." In an interview conduced in 2013, Bertolucci says he did not tell Schneider "because I wanted her reaction as a girl, not as an actress…. I wanted Maria to feel, not to act, the rage and the humiliation." The discrepancy between these two accounts is no small thing.

The clip, embedded below, is the one now making the rounds again. Is it news? No. Is it outrageous nonetheless? Of course.


At Slate, Matthew Dessem traces the path of this story through various media over the past nine years and notes that, now that it's popped up again, "the content factory did what the content factory does." And it's easy to react to this recent flurry of enraged tweets with cynicism, but as Dessem points out, "Everyone’s got to find out about this stuff somehow; it’s good if more people know about Maria Schneider’s treatment on the set of Last Tango in Paris, just like it’s good that more people learned about Tippi Hedren’s treatment on the set of The Birds when it inexplicably became news again a few months ago. If this crop of Last Tango in Paris stories is the data point that lets someone finally see the shape of the system, so much the better."

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