For its original UK cinema release the BBFC suggested cuts to dialogue during the scissors scene and a heavy reduction of the infamous sodomy scene, though the former was rescinded when it was decided that the cuts would be difficult to make without ruining the scene. Instead a proposed cut of 20 secs was required to the sodomy scene to remove shots of Paul smearing butter on Jeanne's buttocks and some overhead shots of sexual thrusting. The latter was also waived following an appeal from the director and instead a mere 10 sec cut was made to the butter smearing. When the OPA (Obscene Publications Act) was extended to cover films a few years later BBFC censor James Ferman waived the cinema cut, and all post-1978 releases (including TV showings) have been the fully uncut version.
Available on video in both R-rated and uncut X-rated versions. One of the main difference between the two cuts involves a scene of anal sex between Marlon Brando and Maria Schneider. In the R-rated version, the scene isn't cut, but rather a lamp is superimposed over the scene, covering most of their bodies. The censored R-rated version is cut by two minutes.
A scene in which Paul scares away a bible salesman from his apartment by getting on all fours and barking like a dog was in the film at its world premiere at the New York Film Festival. Although Pauline Kael, present at that screening, specifically praised the scene in her "New Yorker" review of the film, Bertolucci cut it out of the film before its general release.
A four-hour rough cut of the film exists. Not much is known what this version contains, but apparently it is the version of the film in which Gato Barbieri, the film's composer viewed four times in August of 1971, in order to decide where music was needed in the film.