Legendary Italian filmmaker, Bernardo Bertolucci, passed away Monday morning at the age of 77. The man behind epics such as The Last Emperor, Last Tango in Paris, and The Conformist, will forever be remembered by the immense impact of his stories. Beyond his most well known films, Bertolucci will be remembered as the sole Italian filmmaker to have won an Academy Award for directing.
Born the son of a film critic in Parma in 1941, Bertolucci took advantage of the growing Italian film industry to launch his career. His first job was on set of a film entitled Accattone in 1961 - a job gained through his father's connections to the industry. Bertolucci made a name for himself with his breakout political drama, The Conformist. Moving onto more intimate matters, his next big hit suffered some intense scrutiny; Last Tango in Paris (1972) starred Marlon Brando and Maria Schneider and remained shrouded in controversy. The NC-17 rated erotic drama dealt with sexual themes culminating in a graphic rape scene that distressed some viewers. Despite all this, Brando won an Oscar for his performance in the film. Perhaps the work Bertolucci's best known for is The Last Emperor, an adaptation of the autobiography of the final Emperor of China. Sweeping nine academy awards in 1987, the epic drama cemented Bertolucci's name in filmmaking history.
Variety reported on the director's passing very early Monday morning. The obituary announced that Bertolucci died in his home in Rome, after a difficult battle with cancer. His final film aired at Cannes in 2012, an Italian drama entitled Io e te or "Me and You."
The passing of this esteemed director has elicited a variety of responses online. From moving memorials to acknowledgement of the director's missteps, Bertolucci remains a polarizing figure even in death. Variety, the source that reported on his passing, also published a piece in 2016 that focused on an interview in which Bertolucci refers to that disturbing rape scene in Last Tango in Paris as non-consensual. Maria Schneider - the actress and victim who has since passed - had described how the scene scarred her permanently while Bertolucci expressed feelings of guilt.
Bertolucci may have made mistakes throughout his life but hopefully the acknowledgement of those missteps insinuates a greater understanding of his wrongdoing. The Italian director created epic films that remain a part of the American and Italian culture while he, himself, represents an important era in film history.
Rest in Peace Bernardo Bertolucci: March 16, 1941 - November 26, 2018