Once filmmakers were free to portray sexuality more openly from the 1960s onwards, it took a little while for kink to appear in cinemas frequented by audiences other than the raincoat crowd, though films like Mario Bava‘s “The Whip & The Body” and Luis Bunuel‘s “Belle De Jour” included some elements as such. But it was Bernardo Bertolucci‘s “Last Tango In Paris,” a film that in its time was talked about easily as much as “Fifty Shades Of Grey” and which had a seismic impact on mainstream culture, that truly brought BDSM culture to the big screen.
Based on the Italian director’s own sexual fantasies, it focuses on the tumultous union between American widower Paul (Marlon Brando) and young Parisian Jeanne (Maria Schneider), in a deliberately anonymous sexual relationship with few limits in an empty apartment. The film became most famous for the scene in which Paul sodomizes Jeanne with a stick of butter, but it’s Bertolucci’s investigation of a relationship driven by degradation that feels groundbreaking now: Paul iss wallowing in grief after the suicide of his wife, and inflicts his pain on Jeanne, and yet somehow she can’t keep away. The film was banned in some countries, edited severely in others, a U.S. theater showing the film was threatened with bombing, and Bertolucci was convincted of obscenity charges in Italy, but it was also critically lauded, and received Oscar nominations for Best Director and Actor. The film’s raw pain lingers over forty years on.