My Cousin Maria Schneider: A Memoir

Scribner. Apr. 2023. 160p. tr. from French by Molly Ringwald. ISBN 9781982141509. $26. FILM
The 1972 film Last Tango in Paris, directed by Bernardo Bertolucci, has a contentious place in film history for its explicit rape scene. While films now often use intimacy coordinators to shoot scenes with sex, back then there was no such support. During the filming, lead actress Maria Schneider was 19. In this striking biography—written in present tense—the author, a journalist who is Schneider’s cousin, details Maria’s struggles before, during, and after filming Last Tango in Paris. The scene wasn’t in the original script, and the actress learned of it only just before filming. She had no idea that since the scene was unscripted, she was entitled to refuse to do it. Bertolucci later apologized, but the damage was lasting. Maria struggled throughout her life to overcome her participation in the film. Depression and addiction followed, and she died in 2011 at age 58. Despite this, the author is adamant that her cousin was much more than that film; she fought hard much of her life to make the industry more respectful of women.
VERDICT A terrific translation by fellow actress Ringwald makes this concise, harrowing book a powerful read.
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