ROME (AP) — Italian film-maker Bernardo Bertolucci, who won Oscars with “The Last Emperor” and whose erotic drama “Last Tango in Paris” enthralled and shocked the world, died Monday.
Italy’s state-run RAI said Bertolucci died at his home in Rome, surrounded by family.
Bertolucci’s movies often explored the sexual relations among characters stuck in a psychological crisis, as in “Last Tango.”
Despite working with A-list American and international stars, Bertolucci always defended his own film-making style against what he said was the pressure of the U.S. film industry.
Bertolucci’s movies also bore the imprint of the director’s own experiences in psychoanalysis.
“Maybe I’m an idealist, but I still think of the movie theater as a cathedral where we all go together to dream the dream together,” he said upon receiving an award from the Director’s Guild of America for his 1987 film “The Last Emperor.”
That movie handed Bertolucci his greatest success.
The movie — the first Western feature film to win permission to shoot in Beijing’s Forbidden City — follows the life of China’s last emperor, from child-king at the end of the Qing Dynasty to war criminal and finally to an ordinary citizen in the People’s Republic.
Cinematographer Vittorio Storaro, who often worked with Bertolucci and won one of his three Oscars with “Last Emperor,” compared the director to William Faulkner.
By his early 30s, he had already directed highly acclaimed movies: “Before the Revolution” in 1964, a reflection on politics and the middle-class set in the director’s hometown; “The Spider’s Strategem” in 1970, the story of a man who returns to the scene of the killing of his father, an anti-Fascist hero, to discover a web of lies; and “The Conformist,” which is based on an Alberto Moravia novel and depicts the struggle of a man, Jean-Louis Trintignant, to conform to society and expectations in Fascist Italy.
But its raw and improvisational style also earned Brando and Bertolucci Oscar nominations and was likened by New Yorker film critic Pauline Kael to Stravinsky’s “The Rite of Spring” as a revolutionary work of art.
Bertolucci’s later movies included “The Sheltering Sky,” featuring Debra Winger and John Malkovich as an American couple trying to inject new life into their relationship during a trip to Africa.
In 2007, Bertolucci was honored with a special award for his career’s work at the Venice Film Festival.
Peploe is the sister of Mark Peploe, a screenwriter and close friend of Bertolucci’s who worked with the director on a number of projects.
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