Filmsite Movie Review
Last Tango in Paris (1972)
Pages: (1) (2) (3)
Plot Synopsis (continued)

Paul's Anguished Monoloque Over His Wife Rosa's Dead Body:

During Rosa's wake and funeral held at the flophouse, Paul delivered an anguished, out-of-control confessional (mostly ad-libbed) monologue, as he entered their dark bedroom and sat next to the body of his dead estranged French wife Rosa surrounded by purple flowers. The speech - the best acted sequence in the entire film - was a combination of both rage and grief. He began by criticizing his wife's corpse and its appearance:

"You look ridiculous in that makeup. Like the caricature of a whore. A little touch of Mommy in the night. Fake Ophelia drowned in the bathtub. I wish you could see yourself. You'd really laugh. You're your mother's masterpiece."

Paul was disgusted by the flowers and by all the strange knickknacks she had left behind in the room, concluding that she was completely inscrutable - without taking blame for his own complicity:

"There's too many f--king flowers in this place. I can't breathe. You know, in the top of the closet, cardboard box, I found all your little goodies. Pens, key chains, foreign money, French ticklers, the whole shot. Even a clergyman's collar. I didn't know you collected all those little knickknacks left behind. Even if a husband lives, 200 f--king years, he's never gonna be able to discover his wife's real nature. I mean, I might be able to comprehend the universe, but I'll never discover the truth about you. Never. I mean, who the hell were you?"

He briefly recalled how they had first met at the hotel and he tried to make an impression:

"Remember that day, the first day I was there? I knew that I couldn't get into your pants unless I said, What did I say? Oh, yes. 'May I have my bill, please? I have to leave.' Remember?"

Then, he thought to himself that she had basically treated him just like the other "guests" at the hotel. He angrily chastized her for killing herself, and for being unfaithful to him with Marcel and for making him an identical double. He also felt that she had lived a lie with him and he didn't really know her during their entire 5 year relationship:

"...For five years, I was more a guest in this f--king flophouse than a husband. With privileges, of course. And then, to help me understand, you let me inherit Marcel - the husband's double whose room was the double of ours. And you know what? I didn't even have the guts to ask him. I didn't even have the guts to ask him if the same numbers you and I did were the same numbers you did with him. Our marriage was nothing more than a, a foxhole for you. And all it took for you to get out was a 35-cent razor and a tub full of water. You cheap, goddamn, f--king, god-forsaken whore. I hope you rot in hell. You're worse than the dirtiest street pig that anybody could ever find anywhere, and you know why? You know why? Because you lied. You lied to me and I trusted you. You lied. You knew you were lying! Go on, tell me you didn't lie. Haven't you got anything to say about that? You can think up something, can't ya? Huh? Go on, tell me something! Go on, smile, you c--t! Go on, tell me, tell me something sweet. Smile at me and say it was - I just misunderstood. Go on, tell me. You pig-f--ker! You goddamn, f--king, pig-f--king liar."

After calling her vile names, he broke down as he started wiping off his wife's lipstick (that she never wore when she was alive). He turned apologetic, begged to understand her motivations, and asked why she had killed herself:

"I'm sorry, I just can't, I can't stand it to see these goddamn things on your face. You never wore make-up. This f--king s--t. I'm gonna take this off your mouth. This lipstick, Rosa. Oh, God! I'm sorry. I don't know why you did it. I'd do it too, if I knew how. I just don't know how. God, I have to, I just have to find a way."

At approximately 4 AM, Paul was interrupted and politely excused himself: "I have to go, sweetheart. Somebody's calling me." He became upset when a prostitute (Giovanna Galletti) arrived at the flophouse door with a prospective john (Armand Abplanalp) for sex in her usual room (# 4) for half an hour. When he balked at opening the door, the prostitute's client got cold feet and left. Paul chased down and assaulted the client who had abandoned the hooker, claiming that his wife suffered from a disease that caused her to have snake-skin. The unsympathetic Paul yelled as he beat up the man: "Get up, you faggot! Get the f--k out of here! Faggot!"

Paul moved back into the flophouse-hotel.

The Abandoned Apartment Visited by Jeanne and Thomas - Was Jeanne's Relationship with Paul Over?:

Shortly later, Jeanne discovered that Paul had emptied the rental apartment of the rental furniture. With some tears, she took out her frustrations on some of the items left behind. It appeared that their relationship had broken up, and she assumed that their previous secretive and mostly sexual affair was now over. Jeanne attempted to track down Paul's name and address from the downstairs Concierge, but the woman claimed ignorance. Still upset over the break-up, Jeanne phoned Thomas about the apartment for rent in Passy: ("I found an apartment for us"). She invited him to immediately join her to evaluate the apartment that she had been considering as a rental place for them to live in after they were married - the place that had been her fantasy sexual habitat with Paul for a few weeks.

Once inside the apartment with her fiancee, Jeanne thought of their married future together, suggesting that one of the smaller rooms was a suitable size for a baby's room. While she was still miserable over the loss of Paul, Thomas was sad that his documentary film about Jeanne had wrapped:

"I wanted to film you every day. In the morning when you wake up, then when you fall asleep. When you smile the first time. And I didn't film anything. Today we finish shooting. The film is finished. I don't like things that finish. One must begin something else right away."

Thomas didn't care for the cavernous size of the apartment, and its musky, foul sexual smells and shoddy condition, and he walked out to look for another alternative to live in:

"This apartment is not for us. Absolutely not...I find this sad. It smells."

Jeanne decided to close up the apartment, give back her key, and never return.

But then as Jeanne walked away from the apartment, Paul located her on the street (the location where he was screaming as the film opened) - and playfully tapped her on the shoulder ("It's me again"). Jeanne immediately asserted: "It's over. It's over." Paul insisted that a new relationship was beginning, now that they had left the confines of the apartment.

"It's over, and then it begins again....There's nothing to understand. We left the apartment, and now we begin again with love and all the rest of it."

However, she appeared tired, wasted, and angry - she wished to break it off completely and didn't want to see him again. He shattered the anonymous nature of their relationship by telling her some details of his brutalized life, things that he had withheld from her in the past, including that his wife had recently committed suicide:

"Yeah, listen. I'm 45. I'm a widower. I've got a little hotel. It's kind of a dump, but it's not completely a flop house. Then, I used to live on my luck, and I got married, and my wife killed herself and - you know, but what the hell. I'm no prize. I picked up a nail in Cuba in 1948. Now I got a prostate like an Idaho potato. But I'm still a good stick man, even if I can't have any kids. Let's see. I don't have any stomping grounds. I don't have any friends. I suppose if I hadn't met you, I'd probably settle for a hard chair and a hemorrhoid. Anyway, to make a long, dull story even duller, I come from a time when a guy like me would drop into a joint like this, and pick up a young chick like you and call her a bimbo."

Their original relationship had lost its anonymity, which she thought had been preferable. She was quickly disillusioned by the loss of their private selves.

The Tango Bar and Dance Contest:

The scene transitioned into a tango bar (where a dance contest was being held on an adjoining dance-floor). After a catharsis over his wife's dead body, Paul seemed to have reverted to a more normalized person. He pretended to be picking up on Jeanne: ("I'm awfully sorry to intrude, but I was so struck with your beauty that I thought perhaps I could offer you a glass of champagne. Is this seat taken?...May I?").

The two became increasingly drunk together as he ordered both champagne and Scotch for them. With an affected accent, he encouraged her to drink: "Now, come on. Just a sip for Daddy. Now, if you love me you'll drink all of it." To appease him, she replied: "Okay. I love you," and consumed the entire glass. She then asked: "Tell me about your wife."

He ignored her question, and changed the subject: "Let's talk about us." As the coupled dancers competed nearby, he expressed how he wanted to resume everything and continue their relationship and live normally - and possibly marry her - since he had fallen in love with her:

Paul: "Anyway, you dummy, I love you, and I want to live with you."
Jeanne: "In your flophouse?"
Paul: "In my flophouse? What the hell does that mean? What the hell difference does it make if I have a flophouse, or a hotel or a castle? I love you. What the f--k difference does it make?"

An announcer for the tango contest jury began to read a list of the ten best couples, who would then dance the "last tango." Jeanne proposed some toasts with more drinks to their future home: "Let's have a toast to our life in the hotel"; instead, Paul suggested: "Let's drink a toast to our life in the country" - and added: "I'm Nature Boy. Can't you see me with the cows and the chicken s--t all over me?"; after she noted: "I will be your cow, too," he happily told her: "And listen, I get to milk you twice a day."

Their conversation abruptly changed when Jeanne stated: "I hate the country....I prefer to go to the hotel. Come on. Let's go to your hotel." She appeared ambivalent and contradictory about her feelings (earlier in the film, she had claimed that she preferred the country), often equivocating in her mind whether she would fall under his spell again and love him, or completely reject him.

He suggested that they dance, and they intruded into the dance floor, disrupting the "last tango" contest being conducted with other bourgeois dancers. Paul disruptively dragged her across the floor and they created a scene with sloppy dancing. While they were being ushered and ordered off the dance floor by a matronly judge, Paul pulled down his pants and dramatically told her - while mooning her - that he wanted her to kiss his ass: "This is the end of our love affair, darling. Kiss this!" He enacted a sad and romantic farewell scene with the woman: "Farewell forever. Farewell, you sweet peach blossom."

In a dark seating area of the auditorium, Paul again mentioned to Jeanne that they could start their sexual relationship anew, with flowery language: "Beauty of mine, sit before me. Let me peruse you and remember you always like this. 'If music be the food of love, play on.'" But she had firmly decided that she was ready to seriously end things - she bluntly rejected him:

"It's finished....We're never going to see each other again. Never!...It's not a joke....It's finished."

He called her "a dirty rat" (with a James Cagney accent) for betraying him, and repeated his wishes for a fresh start: "Look, when something's finished, it begins again. Don't you see?" She explained that she was planning to get married. But then to his surprise, she reached down, unzipped his pants, and hand-masturbated him, as she again repeated: "It's finished." After he orgasmed, she walked away as he called her a "dumb bimbo." He aggressively pursued her out of the auditorium, and ran after her on the street.

The Shocking Finale in Jeanne's Mother's Paris Apartment:

She kept resisting him and repeating herself to him: "Stop, stop...Enough! It's over! Go away! Go away!...I'll call the police." And then he reversed his feelings about her and pretended to leave her: "So long, sister. Besides, you're a crummy-looking broad. I don't give a damn if I never see you again."

But then he continued to follow after her into her mother's Parisian apartment building, as she kept shouting out: "It's over. It's over. Police! You're crazy. Help! Help me, please!" He ran up a set of circular stairs as she ascended in the caged elevator shaft to an upper floor. As she vainly tried to summon help and seek rescue, he told her as they both entered her mother's front door: "This is getting ridiculous....This is the title shot, baby. We're going all the way."

After the chase, the two calmed down, and he commented on the place: "It's a little old, but full of memories." She stood before a dresser with her hands in a drawer - where her father's gun was located. He playfully donned her late father's Army cap (he had served as a colonel in French North Africa but was killed in action in 1958 in Algeria, and became a war hero), and gestured with a military salute - appropriating her father's cap and asking: "How do you like your hero? Over easy or sunny side up?"

[Note: Was she disturbed that Paul reminded her of her authoritarian military father?]

He then removed the cap and confessed his love for her while directly approaching toward her:

"You ran through Africa and Asia and Indonesia, and now I've found you. And I love you. I want to know your name."

She had been horrified and fearful earlier, but not at that moment. Suddenly a shot rang out as she answered him and spoke her name "Jeanne" - it was at that same moment that he was shot point-blank in the stomach with her father's Army revolver in her hand. His sincere expression of love for her was probably unbearable and too much for her to handle, and she had to silence him and dispose of him - permanently.

[Note: Had she unjustly feared for her life or her sanity, or subconsciously knew that Paul must die for her life to continue? Had she now switched places in terms of commitment with Paul, taking on his intense desire for an impersonal and anonymous relationship, while he had adopted a more conventional and traditional view of love and marriage?]

As Paul uttered his final words: "Our children, Our children, Our children will remember...", he staggered onto the balcony where his last simple act was to remove his chewing gum from his mouth (and park it under the railing), and then he collapsed and died in a fetal position.

The camera tracked backwards to reveal the skyline (drab rooftops covered with TV antennas), and the enigmatic Jeanne standing there with a revolver in her right hand (her father's Army pistol from his military days). Dazed, Jeanne muttered the last lines of the film (a glazed, wide-eyed mantra) to herself (in French, translated below), rehearsing her lines that she would have to deliver to the police to explain his death (rationalizing and reassuring herself that it was self-defense when the stranger attempted to rape her). Nothing she would use for her excuse would be untrue:

"I don't know who he is. He followed me on the street. He tried to rape me. He's a mad man. I don't know his name. I don't know who he is. He wanted to rape me. I don't know. I don't know him. I don't know who he is. He's a mad man. I don't know his name."

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