At a time when the supervision of filming conditions, intimate scenes and minor actors has become a priority in an industry forced to question itself, director Jessica Palud takes the viewer to the early 1970s, when directors were all-powerful and the consent of the actresses absolutely not a subject.

Illegitimate daughter of a then-famous actor, young Maria dreams of cinema. She was then chosen to play at age 19 under the direction of Bernardo Bertolucci, alongside Marlon Brando, the actor in A Streetcar Named Desire. The subject of the film: the torrid passion between an American widower passing through Paris and a young woman. They decide not to know anything about each other, not knowing even their first names.

Last tango in Paris, behind closed doors, raw and morbid, reaches its climax in a scene of non-consensual sodomy, with a tablet of butter as lubricant. This rape scene, which earned the X-rated film the wrath of the Vatican, entered the history of cinema before becoming a symbol of sexual violence in the 7th art.

Although simulated, the scene was imposed on the actress without her knowing anything about it and will break her, as recounted by her cousin, the journalist Vanessa Schneider in Tu t’appelles Maria Schneider (2018), a book about which inspired Jessica Palud for her film. Fragile, the actress with unhealthy overexposure will then fall into drugs. His career will often be reduced to Tango and this stage. In addition to the conditions of this unimaginable shooting today, what Jessica Palud’s film shows is how much the actresses, here Maria Schneider, are not listened to.

Rebellious, she will not hesitate to talk about double rape, on the part of Brando and the director. She will confirm that the tears we see on screen are hers and not those of her character. Words which shock no one, any more than those of Bertolucci, affirming the ambition that his actress should show “rage and humiliation.”

“To everyone who liked the movie, you are watching a 19 year old girl being raped by a 48 year old man. The director planned the attack. It makes me sick,” actress Jessica Chastain reacted to X at the end of 2016, while Bertolucci returned to the filming conditions. To play this story cruelly reminiscent of the denunciations of Judith Godrèche in France, the director enlisted Anamaria Vartolomei, discovered in The Event, a film on abortion and Golden Lion in Venice in 2021. Thus confirming her ability to play women struggling against what society imposes on them, or prohibits them.

“The producers are men, the technicians are men, the directors are mostly men (…) the agents are men and I have the impression that they have subjects for men” , said Maria Schneider in the documentary Sois belle et tais toi, by Delphine Seyrig, filmed in 1976. The actress, who died in 2011, deplored in passing only being offered “crazy, lesbian, murderous roles”, and hoped to tour with “male partners who are of (his) age”.

“Even Jack Nicholson (his partner in Michelangelo Antonioni’s ‘Profession Reporter’, 1975) is better than Brando, but that’s not it, he’s almost 40 years old.” An observation she made, tiredly, at 23 years old. Maria will be released on June 19 in French theaters.