Thursday, August 12, 2010

A Recipe for Pounded Ass

Ask any man what's his favorite sex scene in a movie and ten out of ten times he will mention 9 1/2 Weeks, Secretary or Last Tango in Paris. The three movies are about sexist relationships where men hold on to an outdated macho concept in a world where women no longer willingly play a submissive role so they have to invent silly sexual games aimed at humiliating women. The films advance the same male fantasy--that if women become strong, then men become weak, small and ineffectual. Of the three, Tango does not take itself seriously and is the most interesting because of its ironic tone and parody of two influential film styles, 1950s Hollywood and the French New Wave. Bertolucci critiques and condemns the passé ideas and attitudes which informed these styles, but because the film quickly became a cultural object encrusted with layers of largely irrelevant criticism, its deeper meanings were ignored.

The plot is simple. Young Jeanne (Maria Schneider) goes to rent a Paris apartment and finds that mysterious, middle-aged Paul (Marlo Brando) also wants to rent the place. Within moments these total strangers are fornicating. It’s a brief and impulsive encounter, and a shock to both and the audience. They decide to continue meeting there for regular trysts, agreeing never to ask each other their names or any other personal information. Their encounters are a way to escape from the troubles of their real-world lives. Later, we find out that Paul is coping with his wife’s recent suicide, and that Jeanne is trying to decide if she really loves an earnest, shallow, self-absorbed young filmmaker (New Wave regular Jean Pierre Leaud).

Sex and preposterous scenes drive the narratives of the three films. Among them is Tango’s famous butter sequence, where Paul sexually dominates a willing Jeanne as he bizarrely sodomizes her on the dirty floor while instructing her to recite text. This scene in particular has been grossly misinterpreted when in fact it’s meant to be ironic and ridiculous. Many people missed the director’s ironic tone in these scenes partly because the irony is subtle. Also, seeing it required familiarity with the consciousness and style in new films. Bertolucci takes types of people and attitudes common in new films and exaggerates them so that we become distanced from the type or the attitude as we watch critically and often with ridicule. The scene has been misunderstood and thus fetishized by men, making it a source of way too many sodomy-based fantasies. Bertolucci violates our expectations by going further than we are used to and by introducing some element that seems inappropriate, namely, Brando’s acting.

Jeanne walks in to find Paul on the floor eating cheese. He greets her with “There’s some butter in the kitchen.” She tells him she’s in a hurry and that a cab is waiting for her downstairs. He repeatedly orders her to “go get the butter.” Angry, she finally obeys and throws the stick of butter at his feet. “What do you think? That an American in an empty apartment, eating cheese and drinking water is interesting?” she asks as she sits on the floor. She finds a hollow space beneath the dirty carpet and when he tries to pry it open, she tells him not to; it might be a family’s secret hiding place. “What about that? Can I open that?” he asks, pointing to her crotch. She tries to get away from him but he grabs her, unbuttons her pants and slides the butter towards them with his foot. He turns her over, lowers her pants, takes a dab of butter and goes to town while making her repeat after him: “Holy family. Church of good citizens. The children are tortured until they tell their first lie. Where the will is broken by repression. Where freedom is assassinated by egotism…family…”

At the heart of Bertolucci’s failure to establish a coherent perspective on events in the film through style and tone is Brando’s performance. His overwhelming screen presence is partially responsible for the confusion about the film. Brando uses the same acting style that had worked so well in his American 1950s movies but here it clashes with Bertolucci’s more modern, European attitudes and style. The sheer strength of Brando’s personality in a film like this is jarring and his old method acting is often quite out of place. Brando’s acting style makes us feel a closeness which is unsuitable for Paul’s brutality and insensitivity But there’s nothing likable about Paul. He is selfish, self-pitying, indulgent and hostile. He’s a man that hates a false middle-class way of being, with its phony niceness and artificial goodness, and he’s become a monster in revolt against the majority in his culture. In Tango, one often feels that Brando is not really acting, but that he is rather expressing a real hostility toward society. He obviously feels that it’s better to be openly and deliberately ugly and brutal than to subscribe to bourgeois superficiality, and the film was a perfect vehicle for expressing such ideas. But his hatred of bourgeois society does not justify taking out this hostility on women. As Brando’s acting style draws us close to the character, it only leaves us puzzled as to what he is really all about, or what we are to feel towards him. Brando’s acting seems inappropriate in the context and shatters our belief in the scene and ultimately in the whole movie.

Impersonal sex is the basic form for encounters between lonely people in our culture. One could expect anyone with a healthy view of sexuality to be disgusted by Paul’s treatment of Jeanne. But people evidently saw their encounters as merely an accurate version of the way things are, with nothing particularly wrong with it. Tango reflects many overused myths and stereotypes of women in the treatment of Jeanne. The film reflects men’s beliefs that women are inferior beings, made for men’s pleasure; that women really want to be humiliated and treated brutally; that women are essentially cold and rejecting, and will cut a man down once he’s become vulnerable; that women are essentially frivolous characters who don't know what they want or where they are headed; they are incapable of deep feeling or, true commitment. It may be true that Bertolucci opens up the film form to certain realities about sexual relations and is thus contributes to overthrowing remaining puritan ideas about sex, but it’s a pity that he remained within negative stereotypes about women.

So it’s with irony (hopefully much more than Bertolucci was able to successfully convey) that I share with you with this recipe inspired by the butter scene (courtesy of Chef David Warner). Girls, have your man cook it and you’ll be giving him what he thinks he wants without you even having to take your clothes off. Realistically, it’s as close he’ll ever get to his fantasy of pounding ass.

Start by making a rub. Put one tablespoon of coriander seed and fennel seed, three bay leaves and one teaspoon black peppercorn in a coffee grinder and grind. Lightly toast in oven.

For the lube, mix one teaspoon minced garlic, 1 tablespoon mint, one tablespoon lemon zest, one tablespoon parsley and one stick of butter.

Pound one 16 oz lamb ass to 1/4” thickness. You will really have to pound hard, and depending on the intensity, you may have to pound that ass for a while. When the ass is tender and ready, marinade in sherry vin and extra virgin olive oil.

Massage butter ointment all over marinated ass. Prior to grilling add rub then flash grill to medium rare.

Serve with tossed salad.

1 comment:

Liz said...

High levels of tri-glicerids are bad for you. Keep clear!