Bernardo Bertolucci - A Life Story

How Should We Look at Bertolucci’s Films Now That He’s Gone?

Following the unfortunate passing of Bertolucci, I felt a homage was necessary to honour this legendary Italian film director, a man with a legacy so brilliant and yet so complex at the same time.

Born in Parma in 1914, he was initially known for his poetry, before going on to begin his film career as an assistant director to Pasolini on his 1961 film ‘Accattone’.

The boom of Italian cinema began to slow in the 1970s due to the effects of the global economic recession on the Italian film industry, but this didn’t stop Bertolucci from becoming one of the giants of European cinema, who created a distinctive kind of Italian new wave movement with his earlier films ‘Before the Revolution’ (1964) and ‘The Conformist’ (1970). Bertolucci's greatest credit was his ability to translate the prestige of Italian cinema into Hollywood success, something few European filmmakers were willing or able to do.

However, despite his name as a genius filmmaker, his acclaimed film ‘Last Tango in Paris’ (1972) sparked controversy, some say clouding his reputation forever because of the infamous butter scene and the question of consent. Following the scandal surrounding the film’s release, all copies were ordered to be destroyed, although Bertolucci was later able to re-submit the film for general distribution in 1978.

But then came his colossal and multi-award-winning epic ‘The Last Emperor’ (1987), a biopic on Pu Yi following his tumultuous reign. Bertolucci even had unprecedented permission to film inside the Forbidden City in Beijing at a time that China was incredibly controlled and secretive. The film went on to win him 2 Oscars, one for directing and one for co-writing

Bertolucci received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2008 and was awarded an honorary Palme d'Or at Cannes in 2011.

Although Bertolucci is now gone, he was a giant of Italian filmmaking, who will forever remain a leading light in world cinema.

Top 5 Bertolucci Films:

  • The Last Tango in Paris
  • The Last Emperor
  • The Conformist
  • Before The Revolution
  • Luna

Katie V