Over the weekend, disturbing reports resurfaced about a scene in the 1972 film Last Tango in Paris in which the film's director, Bernardo Bertolucci, admitted that sexual acts performed on then-19-year-old actress Maria Schneider were not entirely consensual. A video of Bertolucci making the admission from 2013 reappeared online on Friday, and Bertolucci has responded. In a statement released in his native Italian, Bertolucci says:
“I would like, for the last time, to clear up a ridiculous misunderstanding that continues to generate press reports about Last Tango in Paris around the world. Several years ago at the Cinematèque Francais someone asked me for details on the famous butter scene. I specified, but perhaps I was not clear, that I decided with Marlon Brando not to inform Maria that we would have used butter. 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." According to Variety, Bertolucci adds, "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." The resurfaced reports incited outrage for many reasons — the first of which being that Schneider spoke out about the anguish she felt back in 2006, which largely went unnoticed. At the time, Schneider said she felt "humiliated" and "cried real tears" about the scene. Then there's Bertolucci's admission from 2013, in which he admitted that he manipulated Schneider, saying he "didn’t want Maria to act her humiliation, her rage. I wanted Maria to feel, not to act, the rage and humiliation." So not only is it awful enough that Schneider's account of the incident went largely unreported, but the director himself admitted to it and it was ignored for three years. Bertolucci's response, calling the outrage a "ridiculous misunderstanding" and the use of the butter in the scene as a "novelty" doesn't help his case in any way, and is incredibly disappointing.