Bernardo Bertolucci, the award-winning Italian director, has lost his short battle with cancer and has sadly died aged 77.
He was the first honorary Palme d’Or Award at the Cannes Film Festival in 2011. However, beyond those awards, he will always be best known for The Last Tango In Paris. Especially the graphic sex scene involving Marlon Brando‘s character ‘raping’ Maria Schneider’s character, infamous for its use of butter.
The controversy didn’t just stop at the one infamous scene, as claims that Schneider did not give her full consent (or any consent). A claim that Bertolucci and even Brando denied as both stated they did tell her before the scene was made. The film was banned by many countries for many years and a precursor to the #MeToo campaign when in 2016 a video leaked online that the director failed to tell then 19 year old Schneider. She would also say she really did felt ‘violated’ by Brando and the director.
Born in Parma, Italy in 1941 from his birth was raised in an artistic background with his parent’s poet and teacher. His father was also a friend of Pier-Paolo Pasolini who took the young Bertolucci under his wings when he was 20. The film was Pasolini’s debut Accetone (1961) and was to give him his big break with Pasolini and inspiration on him. A year later La Commare Secca (The Grim Reaper) would be his own directorial feature debut.
His debut wasn’t a critical success and like any upcoming filmmaker, he plugged away creating films such as Before the Revolution (1964) and The Spider’s Stratagem (1970). 1970 was the year he would finally get his recognition with the release of The Conformist. A film which gave his radical left-wing political view a platform, views he was proud off and influenced his other films.
1972 he directed The Last Tango in Paris then 4 years later 1900 (1976), a 300-minute long historical drama. Thanks to publicity of his previous film, he was able to recruit the likes of Robert De Niro, Gérard Depardieu and Burt Lancaster.
It was his 1988 Oscar-winning The Last Emperor would give the Italian filmmaker his biggest success. Winning 9 Oscars, the epic film focused in the final days of divine right in China. The scale of the film, as well as the lavish costumes, was extraordinary. What was truly remarkable was the film was the first film to gain the right to film in Beijing’s Forbidden City. Getting security clearance in landmark was an amazing accomplishment.
The Last Emperor was produced by British filmmaker Jerry Thomas whom Bertolucci would go on to work within several other films.the pair would work on The Sheltering Sky, Stealing Beauty with him returning to his political roots in The Dreamers.
Me And You would be his final film which premiered at the 2012 Cannes Film Festival.
Bernardo Bertolucci was married to film-maker Clare Peploe.