‘Last Tango in Paris’, ‘Last Emperor’ director Bertolucci dies

ROME — 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. He was 77.

Bertolucci’s press office, Punto e Virgola, confirmed the death in an email to The Associated Press. 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.” The self-professed Marxist also did not shy away from politics and ideology, as in “The Conformist,” which some critics consider Bertolucci’s masterpiece.

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. He maintained critical success for most of his career, weathering the controversies that his sexually provocative work would stir and some commercial flops.

“When it comes to commercial cinema, I have the strange pleasure of feeling that I’m from another tribe, an infiltrator,” he told Italian daily Corriere della Sera in 1990.

He was honored for lifetime achievement at the Cannes film festival in 2011.

Bertolucci’s movies also bore the imprint of the director’s own experiences in psychoanalysis. He always said that making films was his way of communicating with the audience. It was his personal language.

“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. In 1988 it won all the nine Academy Awards that it had been nominated for — including best movie and best director.

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.

It was filmed in the lush and vivid style that was one of Bertolucci’s trademarks. It featured grandiose scenes and intimate moments, and a flashback structure that is typical of biopics.

Cinematographer Vittorio Storaro, who often worked with Bertolucci and won one of his three Oscars with “Last Emperor,” compared the director to William Faulkner.

“His style is not unlike that of Faulkner who’ll go on for 30 pages without a period. Bernardo doesn’t just use the camera to convey just one sentence. Everything flows into everything else,” said Storaro.

Bertolucci was born in the northern city of Parma on March 16, 1941, the son of poet Attilio Bertolucci and his wife Ninetta. The family moved to Rome when Bertolucci was 13.

He had originally wanted to be a poet like his father, but later turned to movies.

He began his career while still a student at the University of Rome as an assistant director on Pier Paolo Pasolini’s film “Accattone.” A year later, in 1962, he made his first film “The Grim Reaper,” about the murder of a prostitute.

Soon he established himself as one of the brightest young stars of international cinema. 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 it was with “Last Tango” that Bertolucci shot to stardom, and notoriety.

The film, starring Marlon Brando and Maria Schneider as a middle-aged man and younger woman who engage in a brutal sexual relationship in a bare Paris apartment, shocked the world and incurred censorship in his native country.

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.

The movie was banned in Italy just after its release in 1972, and was not released again until 1987. The case went back and forth in the courts until the high criminal court banned the film in 1976 and ordered all copies confiscated and destroyed. Bertolucci, Brando and Schneider, as well as the producer Alberto Grimaldi, were sentenced to two months in jail and a fine of $40 each — although the jail terms were suspended.

Schneider herself would say she was traumatized by the movie. The actress, who died in 2011, was just 19 during filming and told the Daily Mail in 2007 that a rape scene involving a stick of butter was included without warning.

“I should have called my agent or had my lawyer come to the set because you can’t force someone to do something that isn’t in the script, but at the time, I didn’t know that,” she said.

“Marlon said to me: ‘Maria, don’t worry, it’s just a movie,’ but during the scene, even though what Marlon was doing wasn’t real, I was crying real tears. I felt humiliated and to be honest, I felt a little raped, both by Marlon and by Bertolucci. After the scene, Marlon didn’t console me or apologize. Thankfully, there was just one take,” she said.

Bertolucci then embarked on his most ambitious project, a four-hour epic tale on the lives of two boys — Gerard Depardieu and Robert De Niro — through the political upheavals of the past century in Italy. The movie — “1900” — won some critical praise, but ended up a spectacular commercial flop.

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. The 1990 work won Bertolucci a nomination at the Golden Globes.

He also directed “Little Buddha” in 1993 with Keanu Reeves as Siddharta; “Stealing Beauty” in 1996 starring Liv Tyler as a teenager discovering sex during a trip to Italy; “The Dreamers,” again an erotic drama set against a political backdrop — in this case the 1968 student riots in Paris — starring Eva Green and Louis Garrel as cinema-loving siblings who strike up a friendship with visiting American student Michael Pitt. The film featured full-frontal male nudity but was released uncut in the United States.

In 2007, Bertolucci was honored with a special award for his career’s work at the Venice Film Festival.

Bertolucci was married to the English writer and director Clare Peploe. They had no children. 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.

Punto e Virgola, the press office, said details of funeral plans are not yet finalized but that it expects a ceremony in the next few days.

Entertainment Videos
Andrew Carmean will be the only local participant in upcoming demolition derby
Andrew Carmean, a demolition driver, will be the only local participant in upcoming derby at the Plaza Hotel. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Masso Osteria first anniversary in Las Vegas
Scott Conant was in town Tuesday to host a one-year anniversary party for his Red Rock Resort restaurant Masso Osteria.
Baked Alaska a specialty at Favorite Bistro in Las Vegas
Award-winning pastry chef Claude Escamilla makes Baked Alaska with strawberry sorbet and vanilla gelato and flames it at Favorite Bistro at The Linq Promenade in Las Vegas. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Chili cooks face fierce and friendly competition at Nevada cook-off
Forty chili cooks competed in the Nevada State Chili Cookoff in Pahrump on Sunday, March 17, 2019, with the winners advancing to the World Championship Chili Cook-off in Des Moines, Iowa. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
Arcade ‘speakeasy’ leads to secret door and Banksy art in Las Vegas
Arcade ‘speakeasy’ leads to secret door, Banksy art in Las Vegas (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Hazel in Las Vegas serves modern takes on traditional cocktails
Hazel serves modern takes on traditional cocktails (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegas celebrates St. Patrick's Day
Tonight the city lit the Welcome sign green, McMullan's Irish Pub and the Guinness store also prepare for this weekend's St. Patrick's Day festivities. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Reuben sandwich at Served in Henderson, near Las Vegas
Matthew Meyer, chef/owner of Served, makes a Reuben sandwich with house-brined corned beef, house-made sauerkraut and gooey melted cheese at his restaurant in Henderson, outside Las Vegas. Heidi Knapp Rinella/Review-Journal
Las Vegas day club season returns with big-name DJs
Rick Ross, March 23, at Daylight Beach Club at Mandalay Bay The Chainsmokers, March 30, at Encore Beach Club Marshmello, April 6, Kaos Dayclub at the Palms Chuckie, May 11, Marquee Dayclub at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas Calvin Harris, May 11, Wet Republic at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino
Pizza expert Chris Bianco makes meatballs in Las Vegas
Chris Bianco, who was the keynote speaker at the International Pizza Expo in Las Vegas, demonstrates meatball making for expo attendees. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal
Las Vegas pulmonologist talks about new movie dealing with cystic fibrosis
Dr. Craig Nakamura, Director of Cystic Fibrosis Center of Southern Nevada, talks about the upcoming romantic drama “Five Feet Apart” where both of the lead characters suffer from cystic fibrosis. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
World Pizza Champion crowned in Las Vegas
At the International Pizza Expo in Las Vegas, Italian pizzaiolo Federico De Silvestri took the top prize and more than $12,000. Heidi Knapp Rinella/Review-Journal
Italian wins Pizza Maker of the Year at Pizza Expo
Federico De Silvestri of Verona, Italy, wins the finals in the non-traditional pizza category during the International Pizza Challenge at the International Pizza Expo at the Las Vegas Convention Center Thursday, March 7, 2019. De Silvestri went on to beat winners from each of the four other categories — traditional, pan, pizza Napoletana and Roman — to win Pizza Maker of the Year. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
Good Pie Coming To Arts District
Local pizzaiolo Vincent Rotolo says Good Pie is coming to the Arts District. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Local comedian says "It's ok to laugh, ...the comedy club is dark."
K-Von, a half-Persian comedian, talks about his style of comedy which keeps audiences entertained.
Pizza Dough Throwing Competition
Contestants participate in the World Pizza Games at the International Pizza Expo in Las Vegas, Wednesday night. (Mat Luschek/Review-Journal)
World Pizza Games showcased in Las Vegas
The World Pizza Games, part of the International Pizza Expo, drew competitors from all over the world to Las Vegas to compete in events such as dough stretching and box folding. Heidi Knapp Rinella/Review-Journal
Pizza competitors dazzle at international expo
The International Pizza Expo at Las Vegas Convention Center included the first rounds of the World Pizza Games. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
International Pizza Expo in Las Vegas showcases products and trends
At the International Pizza Expo in Las Vegas, vegan and gluten-free menu choices and compostable packaging were highlighted, as well as Detroit-style and Roman-style pizza. Heidi Knapp Rinella/Review-Journal
Chef Dan Krohmer talks about a new restaurant
Chef Dan Krohmer talks about the construction of his new restaurant at Fremont Street’s Fergusons Downtown complex in downtown Las Vegas. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Neon Museum lights up the Hard Rock Cafe guitar sign
The Neon Museum in Las Vegas flipped the switch on its latest acquisition Monday night, the Hard Rock Cafe guitar sign. (Mat Luschek/Review-Journal)
A Taste of Eataly Las Vegas
Executive Chef Nicole Brisson gives a tour around Eataly Las Vegas, located in the Park MGM. (Mat Luschek/Review-Journal)
Order a pretty purple cocktail at North Italia in Las Vegas
Order a pretty purple cocktail at North Italia in Las Vegas (Janna Karel/ Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Towering triple decker sandwich at Sadelle’s at Bellagio in Las Vegas
Jonah Resnick, executive chef of Sadelle’s, the newest restaurant at Bellagio in Las Vegas, serves a daunting concoction of roast beef layered with house-made cole slaw, turkey and more cole slaw, on rye bread. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Review-Journal)
Paris Las Vegas Debuts New Eiffel Tower Light Show
The Paris in Las Vegas unveiled its latest Eiffel Tower light show, Wednesday evening. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Video: Las Vegas Omelet House Marks 40th anniversary
Omelet House at Charleston Boulevard and Rancho Drive in Las Vegas, which opened in 1979, is a locals’ favorite, known for fluffy six-egg omelets. Heidi Knapp Rinella/Review-Journal
Golden Knights' Ryan Reaves readying new beer
Ryan Reaves, a forward with the Golden Knights, has plans for a second beer, a lager, through his 7Five Brewing Co. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
The Bellagio Adds Lady Gaga To The Fountain Playlist
Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance” has been added to the rotation of classic tunes played for the dancing waters at Lake Bellagio. The song debuted at 6 p.m. Monday. (Mat Luschek/Review-Journal)
Comedian uses laughter to bring understanding about AIDS
Comedian Brandon Cox Sanford talks about how he uses his comedy sketches to bring light to his AIDS diagnosis. (Rachel Aston/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
20th anniversary of the House of Blues in Las Vegas
Sasha Rincon-Camacho, regional marketing director, talks about the 20th anniversary of the House of Blues in Las Vegas. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @bizutesfaye
TOP NEWS
Home Front Page Footer Listing