A lot of writers have been very careful in their eulogy-writing about the death of legendary Italian director Bernardo Bertolucci. New York critic David Edelstein was not one of them. Edelstein jokingly stated, referring to the Marlon Brando-Maria Schneider anal sex scene from Last Tango in Paris, that “even grief is better with butter.”
It only took a few hours for Edelstein's world to come crashing down in front of his very eyes. He had quickly deleted and apologized for the post, mostly due to angry commenters, but it was too little too late for the veteran film critic. Soon after, he was sacked from his job on NPR's "Fresh Air." He was also disinvited from moderating a q&a discussion with "Private Life" director Tamara Jenkins during a mid-day press luncheon.
Actress Martha Plympton tweeted that she refused to eulogize Bertolucci's passing “precisely because of this moment in which a sexual assault of an actress was intentionally captured on film. And this asshole (Edelstein) makes it into this joke. Fire him. Immediately.”
Edelstein issued an apology claiming that he “was not aware of” Schneider’s experience on the film. I doubt it. The story was all over film twitter; this is a case of Edelstein just trying to save face. It failed. The mob has turned on the 30+ year film critic. It feels like the Joe McCarthy hearing all over again. This reinforces my notion that you can't outwardly express what you feel or think on Facebook or Twitter without being attacked by at least one Robespierre-like PC hound. Edelstein truly believed his personal Facebook page was a somewhat private space. He was wrong. If you're on social media, which most journalists have to be if they want any kind of career in the field these days, then you run the risk of being caught saying the wrong thing and put on "the blacklist."
It is just mind-boggling to that just one ill-advised online joke about a movie made more than 45 years ago can kill off the career of one of the last big-name film critics.
Just to refresh your memory, Schneider claimed that shooting the infamous "Last Tango In Paris" sex scene was traumatic because she hadn’t been consulted by director Bernardo Bertolucci and actor Marlon Brando beforehand, and that she felt “a little bit raped.” However, Schneider had very clearly stated in a 1997 interview that the sex was consensual. Although, she admitted that the anal-sex aspect “wasn’t in the original script,” and that “it was Marlon who came up with the idea,” and that “they only told me about it before we had to film the scene and I was so angry."
Bertolucci denied the whole incident two years ago. “I specified…that I decided with Marlon Brando not to inform Maria that we would [be using] butter,” he wrote. “We wanted her spontaneous reaction to that improper use [of the butter]. That is where the misunderstanding lies. Somebody thought, and thinks, that Maria had not been informed about the violence on her. That is false!
“Maria knew everything because she had read the script, where it was all described. The only novelty was the idea of the butter. And that, as I learned many years later, offended Maria. Not the violence that she is subjected to in the scene, which was written in the screenplay.”