from now on, spoiler warning... i'm just going to outright say what happens and what I think it means. personally, I think you could still enjoy the movie, but just in case SPOILERS (somewhere) AHEAD.
when paul suggested meeting again to jeanne, he told her "no names." later, we find he means no names AT ALL. not only does he not wish to know her name, he doesn't want her to use names when she talks about people. of course, one of the first names she uses is "paul". she's talking about her cousin...
bernardo bertolucci wrote the screenplay, but marlon brando ad libbed A LOT. so, I suspect much of what unfolds in any scene with paul (i.e., most of the movie) come from a really different place than what's going on otherwise.
there is some suggestion that marlon brando and maria schneider didn't expect the movie to be the way it wound up being because they both complained about their treatment by bertolucci.
however, marlon brando and bernardo bertolucci did have a friendship by the end of brando's life. bertolucci tells brando he was "in love with him." so, perhaps he tried to maintain control of the movie a bit more harshly than necessary.
also, FIVE actors have every one of their scenes deleted. maybe the movie we see isn't the movie the actors thought they were making?
maria schneider also said she felt "raped" by marlon brando (the butter scene) although she also remained friends with him, she did say there was a time they couldn't discuss the movie. sadly, this movie ruined all associations with butter for poor maria. she cooks with olive oil.
this movie perhaps was a mistake for maria schneider to make. she says she was nothing like jeanne. she does a great job in this movie, but it's not too hard to imagine that everyone just assumed she was a wild slut afterwards.
for his part, marlon brando doesn't stomp all over her lines which... if he wanted to he could have done. but, he plays his part and lets her play hers.
the movie spends some time right about now letting us know about jeanne and her fiance tom. tom is played by french new wave star jean-pierre leaud.
he is finished with his education and is directing the movie he proposed with jeanne. because it's her real life he's also a star. like any reality show, there's all sorts of set up situations.
so when jeanne goes home, tom (and crew) follows her around as he asks her questions about her childhood. she shows him photos, reads an essay, some definitions she copied down (including one for the word "penis"), and takes him outside to see her "jungle." she tells tom how she and her cousin each had their own tree they liked to sit under (we hear more on this later).
tom dramatically sets up shots and directs jeanne with words and gestures. he "regresses" her in age by counting back year by year until he reaches age nine. at first, this seems like another bit of direction by tom, but toward the end of the movie there is another counting scene... counting up to 19.
we meet maria's mother. she's played by gitt magrini and their servant olympia (luce marquand). maria's mother is talking about things she wants to take with her to the country. these include some "military things" (uniform, boots) that belonged to jeanne's father. she says "these military things never age".
jeanne talks about the colonel with his "tall boots and bright blue eyes." she says he died in 58.
there is some feelings around the house that jeanne has been overindulged... by her teacher, by this film project.
nothing about what we see happen between jeanne and tom seems completely real. and nothing makes her seem like she'd go back to the apartment, but she does go back and she goes back not long after the first time.
she arrives to see paul's had some furniture delivered. he gets her to help him move a few things. then she decides to tell him some of the same stories she told tom. only paul questions her until she tells him the truth.
paul learns the teacher who indulged jeanne so much was a lesbian. he learns she and the cousin she liked so much used to play a masturbation game... they'd sit under their trees and see who could reach orgasm first.
when she talks about the colonel, paul says "all military uniforms are a lie." when she says he died in 58, pauls says, "or 68", "or 98." jeanne becomes petulant and insists "58!"
paul talks about his childhood... his parents were alcoholics. his father was "super masculine, bar fighting, whore fucking." paul's chore was to milk a cow. he remembers having to milk it before going to a basketball game and how his shoes stank up the car.
he says they had a black dog named dutchie who ran through a mustard field. he says that was beautiful to see.
then he talks about working for an old farmer who was always sucking on a clay pipe. it was "back breaking work" and he'd make bets with himself how long it'd take the drool to fall off the pipe.
after this paul leaves the room. jeanne is annoyed at the lack of attention from him. she doesn't realize, paul has made himself very sad. while he cries, she masturbates (she doesn't know what he's doing).
it's hard to say if jeanne thinks paul is purposely being annoying. but of course, she doesn't know about rosa.