Maria Schneider’s torments after the sex scene with butter in ‘Last Tango in Paris’: «She started taking drugs, she was insulted in the street»

Maria Schneider’s torments after the sex scene with butter in ‘Last Tango in Paris’: «She started taking drugs, she was insulted in the street»
Maria Schneider’s torments after the sex scene with butter in ‘Last Tango in Paris’: «She started taking drugs, she was insulted in the street»

OfValerio Cappelli

“Maria” arrives at Cannes, the film by Jessica Palud inspired by Schneider’s biography: “Last Tango in Paris” forever marked the life of the actress, who was a minor at the time. The director: «I don’t judge, but I question the limits of art»

CANNES – When he made that censored and consecrated film, which ended up at the stake and in the history of cinema, Maria Schneider was no longer a child and was not an adult. One day it ignited the erotic imagination of Bernardo Bertolucci who at 31 years old was coming off the success of The conformistand of Marlon Brando, who was 48 years old and was already Marlon Brando. The two were at breakfast together. And the idea of ​​butter came. Last tango in Paris it is the story of an American transplanted to Paris who, after his wife’s suicide, has lost all desire to live. Wandering aimlessly he meets a girl in a rented apartment that the two casually visit together. They don’t know each other, but the fatal attraction looms.

The film «Maria» inspired by Schneider’s biography

Mary by Jessica Palud (Première section event at Cannes) is the story of the life of a girl who was forever marked by that film. Maria Schneider was a 19-year-old actress and therefore still a minor for the time, in 1972. In the film the “attacker” was a Hollywood monument, Marlon Brando. After having redone the scene of simulated sodomy with butter, an almost unreal silence fell on the set. “We thought about what really happened,” says Giuseppe Maggio, who plays Bertolucci. Mary it is inspired by the biography that Vanessa Schneider wrote about her cousin, played by Annamaria Vartolomei, 25 years old, Romanian as were the Romanian origins on Maria’s mother’s side.

The director says: «I don’t judge, I made a portrait of that society through the gaze of Maria Schneider. I admired Bertolucci, who I interned for The Dreamers». But he adds that «in the name of art everything was passed over in silence. The film interrogates the mockery of integrity, the limits of art, betrayal through the gaze of Mary.”

The director: «When Schneider told what had happened, no one listened to her»

Palud entered his thoughts, his skin, his breathing: «I tried to feel what she felt. When she told her years later what had happened to her, no one listened to her. There was no one to protect her.” Cousin Vanessa says that the film “came out damaged, she started taking drugs, she was insulted in the street, associated with a sexual object, people made vulgar jokes about butter”.

Pants lowered without consent: “I wanted his real tears”

The director read “the original script and the butter sequence wasn’t there.” It was a cinema of men made for men. Before shooting, Bertolucci warned her that they would go further, that he likes to improvise and look for accidental moments. The fact is that Marlon Brando lowered her trousers, and this was not written. Bernardo later said that he wanted “the real tears of Mary”. In 2007, 35 years later, she tried to free herself from her torment and recounted her deception of having been warned “one minute before the take, Marlon Brando told me: don’t worry, it’s just a movie.”

For the director, the “butter” scene, that sulphurous tango, is “of rapid, sharp and unappealing violence”. When Maria was no longer there and she couldn’t listen to her words, Bertolucci declared that he had “feels of guilt but no regrets”. But he later recanted: “Maria knew everything except butter.”

«The rawness lies in the shot that shows the crew witnessing everything», says Giuseppe Maggio. What did the director advise you? «Not to seek wickedness. I lived the movie from Bertolucci and not as a spectator. For him, butter was the mortification of the bourgeois family.”

Maggio, who plays Bertolucci: «Schneider suffered a lot»

Even for Marlon Brando Jessica did not pursue «a perfect resemblance but an evocation. There were two solutions: take a double or someone who represents the myth and charm of Hollywood. And Matt Dillon was the actor whose poster the girls had in their room.” For her descent into hell, the protagonist had an intimacy coordinator and a stuntwoman, because “such a violent action could have required a replacement, which didn’t happen.” For Bertolucci, Giuseppe Maggio However, he sought physical plausibility, wearing his clothes, the reindeer and leather jacket, the fedora, as well as his hairdo and sideburns: «I don’t make artistic judgments, I know that Maria Schneider suffered a lot».

“She was not prepared for either glory or scandal,” says the director. She focused on the freedom of the tormented Maria with the black curls, messy like her, and on the consequences of her freedom. The film is dedicated to her, who passed away in 2011, aged 58.

May 14, 2024 (changed May 15, 2024 | 4:07 pm)


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