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Cannes 2024: Maria Schneider and her attack on Marlon Brando told in a touching biopic

Jessica Palud pays tribute to Maria Schneider

The film Mary by Jessica Palud, presented as a world premiere at the 77th Cannes Film Festival, traces the descent into hell of actress Maria Schneider (played by Anamaria Vartolomei), made famous for her role in Last tango in Paris by Bernardo Bertolucci, released in 1972, during which he suffered sexual violence by his playmate, Marlon Brando (played in the film by Matt Dillon).

In fact, during the filming of an intimate scene, Bernardo Bertolucci had asked Marlon Brando to play a scene of sexual violence against the character played by Maria Schneider, but without notifying the actress in advance. The very cruel scene where Brando simulates anal rape with butter as lubricant, was filmed when Schneider did not expect to suffer such aggression from her playing partner. After filming, she said she felt like she had been raped twice: by Marlon Brando and by Bernardo Bertolucci.

The scene was shot in one take and Maria Schneider was only 19 years old at the time. The latter was profoundly affected by this experience. He talked about the scene as a traumatic event, feeling humiliated and mistreated by Brando and Bertolucci. This trauma had lasting effects on his mental and emotional health.

A touching and wonderfully acted biopic

Mary by Jessica Palud explores pivotal moments in Maria Schneider’s life, including her tumultuous adolescence marked by the fame of her father, Daniel Gélin, and her mother’s disapproval when Maria tried to reconnect with him.

Palud strives to honor the voice of Maria Schneider, highlighting her courage and determination in a male-dominated film industry where women were often silenced. This theme resonates strongly today, at a time when French cinema actresses are finally starting to make themselves heard.

Anamaria Vartolomei, who had already fascinated us with her great intensity and precision in The event by Audrey Diwan (for which she won the César for breakthrough female performance) carries the film on her shoulders, with always this determined lookin which we read all the anguish, but also the anger, of Maria Schneider, who dared to denounce what had happened to her on this set, at a time when women’s words were not listened to.

Thanks to the character of Celeste Brunnquell (once again wonderful), Jessica Palud inserts a helpful outstretched hand, a shoulder, but also a listening ear to the word. A moment of tenderness as a sign for the future: yes, things are moving forward, and Maria Schneider was one of the first to dare to report what had happened to her. She has also campaigned for better treatment of actors and awareness of abuse in the film industry.

After the success of Last tango in Paris, Schneider’s career has had its ups and downs. Although she continued to work in film, she was often stigmatized by this controversial scene and she had difficulty breaking free from this image.

Jessica Palud’s film is a touching homage to Maria Schneider, but also serves as a retrospective mirror, highlighting themes that have strong resonance with current issues. Tracing key moments in Schneider’s life, the film highlights the struggles and injustices she faced, drawing parallels with contemporary movements for women’s rights and against abuse in the film industry.

The film Mary will be released on June 19th in French cinemas.

Source: Cine Serie

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