On Monday, Italian filmmaker Bernardo Bertolucci died at his home in Rome. The director earned both praise and condemnation for movies, such as “Last Tango in Paris,” that included graphic content and tackled sensitive topics. Jeffrey Brown takes a look back at Bertolucci’s long and significant career, which spanned more than 50 years.
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The Italian filmmaker Bernardo Bertolucci died at his home in Rome earlier today.
Jeffrey Brown has this look back at his career spanning more than 50 years.
Bernardo Bertolucci made films that both followed and defied the conventions of his times and won the praise from many in the film world.
He's pushing us to the edge of experience. And that's what filmmaking is all about.
Pure visual joy that's impossible to describe in words.
Born into an affluent, artistic family, Bertolucci started making short films as a teenager in Rome.
His early work captured the politically, culturally and sexually tumultuous spirit of the 1960s and '70s, films with art house appeal such "Before the Revolution" in 1964, and his breakthrough, "The Conformist," in 1970.
International fame and controversy came in 1972 with the release of "Last Tango in Paris." Its graphic depiction of a sexual relationship between an older man played by Marlon Brando and a young French woman, 19-year-old actress Maria Schneider, earned the film an X-rating in the United States and an obscenity trial in Italy, where Bertolucci received a four-month suspended sentence.
The film was heralded by some for its frank eroticism, criticized by others for its emphasis on female nudity and tones of emotional abuse.
Many years later, Schneider said she'd been traumatized during the filming, especially its most provocative scene of anal rape, saying she herself — quote — "felt a little raped both by Marlon and Bertolucci."
The director's later admission that aspects of the scene were a surprise to his young actress drew condemnation.
Bertolucci's most ambitious film came in 1976 — "1900," featuring an international cast, including Robert De Niro, was a massive multigenerational epic, exploring questions of class and family.
And his biggest Hollywood acclaim came in 1987 with "The Last Emperor."
I have decided that you will be the new lord of 10,000 years.
It won nine Academy Awards, including best film and director, for a lush biopic about the child who became China's final imperial ruler, ahead of the Maoist revolution.
With 2003's "The Dreamers," he returned to the revolutionary politics of his early works, with the story of two characters who have sealed themselves off from student riots in the streets outside.
It's about the spirit of those times, a hope of changing the world, of changing the relationship between human beings.
And he kept working in his later years, directing his final film, "Me and You," released in 2012 from a wheelchair.
Bernardo Bertolucci died today at his home in Rome. He was 77 years old.