Bernardo Bertolucci of the famous “Last Tango” died in Rome


ROME (Reuters) – Italian director Bernardo Bertolucci, whose 1972 film “Last Tango in Paris” shocked audiences with a notorious sex scene that returned to haunt him in his later years, died on Monday.

Bertolucci, 77, died at his home in Rome after a long illness, his press secretary said. He had been in poor health for years and confined to a wheelchair since the early 2000s following back surgery.

“Last Tango”, which starred Marlon Brando, was banned in several countries, including Italy, where it did not air until early 1987.

It earned Bertolucci an Oscar nomination and bolstered his international reputation, but his follow-up “1900”, a historic five-hour epic starring Robert De Niro, Gérard Depardieu, Donald Sutherland and Burt Lancaster, marked the start of a long period of advertising. flops.

He made a comeback with “? The Last Emperor ”in 1987, beautifully shot by its longtime cinematographer Vittorio Storaro, who won the nine Oscars for which he was nominated, reaffirming Bertolucci’s position as a filmmaker with a distinct vision.

Born in Parma in central Italy, Bertolucci was the son of the poet and film critic Attilio Bertolucci.

He started writing poetry as a child and had his work published in magazines before his teens, winning a national poetry award as a student in Rome.


It was a golden childhood. A large, comfortable house, servants, understanding parents and a quest for intellectualism, ”he said.

?? ” When I was 10, I spent Saturdays and holidays at the movies, seeing one to two hours, another at four, and maybe a third at six.

At the age of 15 he borrowed a camera to make his first films – 16mm silent short films – and in 1961 he abandoned his studies to become assistant director to the young Pier Paolo Pasolini on “?? Accattone”.

“From the day I started working with Pasolini, I stopped writing poetry,” he said. ?? “Poetry was just a way to express myself until I could find the real way – to make movies.”

His first feature film, a thriller titled “?

He spent two years preparing for his second, “Before the Revolution”. The romantic exploration of turbulent youth after WWII has received critical acclaim.

But the turning point in his career came in 1970 when he shot two remarkable films, “The Spider’s Ploy” and the complex and ambivalent adaptation of Alberto Moravia‘s novel “The Conformist”.

Bertolucci’s early works were certainly far from sensationalistic, however, notable for their passionate descriptions of the effects of social ills, reflecting the director’s strong left-wing views.

“Last Tango” sparked controversy because of its explicit sex – particularly an anal rape scene – and has been condemned by Italian courts as “obscene, indecent and responding to the lowest libido instincts”.

The rape scene, infamous for Brando’s use of butter to penetrate his co-star, also traumatized his lead actress Maria Schneider, a 19-year-old stranger at the time.

“I felt humiliated and, to be honest, felt a bit raped, both by Marlon and Bertolucci. After the scene, Marlon neither consoled nor apologized. Fortunately, there was only one take, ”she told Britain’s Daily Mail before her death in 2011.

The controversy resurfaced in 2016 when a video appeared of Bertolucci recounting a master class in Paris: “I had been, in a way, horrible with Maria because I hadn’t told her what was going on.

Responding to a wave of outrage, the director said Schneider had known everything about the scene beforehand except the use of butter, which was an idea he discussed with Marlon just before filming.

“Someone thought, and thinks, that Maria was not told about the violence she was subjected to. It is not,” he said.


The period of the flops that followed weighed on the director, who turned to the east for the theme “? The Last Emperor ”which recounted the life of Pu Yi, the last imperial ruler of China.

“I was so frustrated that I wanted to go far,” he said.

The project took four years to complete, using 19,000 extras and 9,000 costumes. It was the first Western feature film on China, made in China since the communist revolution of 1949. It was also the first film shot in the Forbidden City of Beijing, the former home of the Chinese rulers.

Bertolucci continued to make films as recently as 2012, but never again reached such critical and commercial heights. He has received lifetime awards from the Cannes and Venice festivals.

In an interview with Reuters in 2013, Bertolucci said he was disappointed with the Hollywood that had once inspired him and preferred television series such as “Mad Men”, saying they were better cast and better directed. than big screen productions.

“My generation has had an affair with American culture, there’s no question about it. A lamppost and a fire hydrant made me sing in the rain, ”he said.

“I saw ‘Stagecoach’ and for me (the director) John Ford became Homer,” he said of the classic American western film made in 1939. “I was in front of a big mirror and what I saw at age 12 was “For me it was John Wayne.

“But the American movies that I love now don’t come from Hollywood studios but from TV shows, like ‘Mad Men’, ‘Breaking Bad’, ‘The Americans’,” he said.

In 2012, Bertolucci made his first feature film in nearly a decade with “Me and You”, about an introverted 14-year-old teenager who tells his mother he’s going on a ski trip but spends a week in the sub. -family floor with her addicted half-sister.

Like “Last Tango in Paris”, it was shot mainly indoors.

Reporting by Philip Pullella. Editing by Patrick Johnston

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