It was quite a surprise to see the name of actress Maria Schneider in the Obit column today.
As much for remembering the long-ago crush, as for how long she has been out of the news, the limelight dimmed for quite some time.
Ms. Schneider died yesterday in Paris “following a long illness,’’ a representative of the Act 1 talent agency said, but declined to provide details.
Ms. Schneider was 19 when she starred opposite Brando in Bernardo Bertolucci’s racy “Last Tango in Paris.’’ In it, she played Jeanne, a young Parisian woman who takes up with a middle-aged American businessman, played by Brando.
Full of explicit sex scenes, “Last Tango’’ was banned in Italy for obscenity for nearly two decades, returning to cinemas there only in 1989. In the United States, the movie still has an NC-17 rating for its sexual content, meaning it can’t be seen by children under 17 years of age.
I'm quite sure anyone over the age of 18, back in 1972 either (A) flocked to the movies to see the film 'Last Tango In Paris", or (B) was aware of the controversy surrounding its' explicit sex scenes, or, (C) rushed to the record store to get the smoking soundtrack, featuring the great saxophonist Gato Barbieri.
I indulged in A, and C of the above.
In her youth, Maria Schneider was incredibly beautiful, which was likely the factor in getting her two big roles (Three years after 'Tango', she starred with Jack Nicholson in 'The Passenger').
All the obituaries mention "a long illness", which included drugs and, as a few referenced, "mental illness".
In the film, Jeanne enters into a brief but torrid affair with a recently widowed American, played by Brando. Their erotically charged relationship, played out in an empty apartment near the Bir Hakeim Bridge in Paris, shocked audiences on the film’s release in 1972, especially a scene in which Brando pins Ms. Schneider to the floor and, taking out a stick of butter, seems to perform anal intercourse on her. The Motion Picture Association of America gave the film an X rating.
The role fixed Ms. Schneider in the public mind as a figurehead of the sexual revolution, and she spent years trying to move beyond the role, and the public fuss surrounding it. “I felt very sad because I was treated like a sex symbol,” she told The Daily Mail of London in 2007. “I wanted to be recognized as an actress, and the whole scandal and aftermath of the film turned me a little crazy and I had a breakdown. Now, though, I can look at the film and like my work in it.”
The famous butter scene, she said, was not in the script and made it into the film only at Brando’s insistence. “I felt humiliated and to be honest, I felt a little raped, both by Marlon and by Bertolucci,” she said. “After the scene, Marlon didn’t console me or apologize. Thankfully, there was just one take.”
Whatever, it still brings about a veil of sadness.
RIP Maria Schneider.