Bernardo Bertolucci (March 16, 1941 – November 26, 2018) was an Italian cinema director and screenwriter who had a 50-year career. Bertolucci’s work has received international praise, and he is regarded as one of the great filmmakers of Italian cinema. He was the first Italian director to win the Academy Award for Best Director for The Last Emperor (1987), one of several honors he received, including two Golden Globes, two David di Donatellos, a British Academy Award, and a César Award. In appreciation of his efforts, he received the inaugural Honorary Palme d’Or Award at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival’s opening ceremony. He had already earned a Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement at the Venice Film Festival. He was the brother of the Italian director Giuseppe Bertolucci.
Bertolucci, a protégé of Pier Paolo Pasolini, made his directorial debut at the age of 22. Before the Revolution (1964), his second picture received positive international reviews and has since become a classic, being dubbed a “masterpiece of Italian cinema” by Film4. His 1970 picture The Conformist, an adaptation of Alberto Moravia‘s novel, is regarded as a worldwide cinema classic and was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay as well as the prestigious Berlin Golden Bear. Last Tango in Paris, his erotic drama from 1972, sparked a maelstrom of controversy due to its graphic eroticism, Bertolucci’s and actor Marlon Brando‘s professional connection with actress Maria Schneider, and continues to elicit discussion. Bertolucci’s films, including the historical epic 1900 (1976), the family drama La Luna (1979), and the darkly comic Tragedy of a Ridiculous Man (1981), were all controversial but critically praised.
His 1987 biopic of Chinese ruler Puyi, The Last Emperor, was a critical and financial triumph, winning glowing reviews and sweeping the 60th Academy Awards (including Best Picture and Best Director). After its popularity, he went on to make two additional films in his “Oriental Trilogy”: The Sheltering Sky, an adaptation of the novel of the same name, and Little Buddha, a Buddhist religious epic. Stealing Beauty, his 1996 picture, earned him his second of two Palme d’Or nominations. He continued to direct long into the twenty-first century, with his final picture, Me and You, released in 2012.
Bertolucci’s films frequently deal with issues of politics, sexuality, history, class strife, and societal taboos, and are distinguished by a sensuous, vivid visual aesthetic that has influenced filmmakers all over the world. Several of his films have been named among the best films of all time.