RIP Bernardo Bertolucci: The Original Dreamer
You’ve probably heard the news. The famed Italian director Bernardo Bertolucci passed away today after a long illness. He was 77.
Born in artistic family in Parma, Bernardo spent his formative years writing poetry like his father and winning prizes for his written work. His father’s background helped his career, as the elder Bertolucci had helped the Italian filmmaker Pier Paolo Pasolini publish his first novel, and Pasolini reciprocated by hiring Bertolucci as first assistant in Rome on Accattone (1961).
He presented his debut feature film La commare secca in 1962 at the age of just 21, but it took several year for the fans outside of Europe to get to know his talent well. That happened in 1970 with the outstanding political piece Il conformist. His follow up The Last Tango In Paris cause quite the controversy in the early 70’s.
The use of film’s raw portrayal of sexual violence and emotional turmoil in The Last Tango led o international controversy and drew various levels of government censorship in different venues. It was however, met with great financial and critical success.
The epic historical drama 1900 followed and after the failure of la Luna and Tragedy of a Ridiculous Man in the late 70’s and early 80’s Bertolucci presented his master piece The Last Emperor in 1987. The Last Emperor won 9 Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Director for Bertolucci.
Bertolucci’s work in the 90’s was met with mixed reviews, as some of his movies never gained the audience’s attention like the ones before. Little Buddha and Stealing Beauty were the exceptions but all changed with the 2003’s The Dreamers.
The erotic drama touched on a new generation of fans and is to this day one of Bertolucci’s most recognizable movies. The film launched the careers of Eva Green, Michael Pitt and Louis Garrel.
But while I take a moment to mourn and reflect on Bertolucci’s career let me tell you about my favorite movies of the grand maestro.
The Conformist (1970)
Stars: Jean-Louis Trintignant, Stefania Sandrelli, Gastone Moschin…
Fun Fact About The Movie: Bernardo Bertolucci approached Brigitte Bardot for the role of Anna Quadri before casting Dominique Sanda.
Last Tango in Paris (1972)
Stars: Marlon Brando, Maria Schneider, Maria Michi…
Fun Fact About The Movie: According to his autobiography “Brando: Songs My Mother Taught Me,” the reason why Marlon Brando refused to do a full frontal nude scene was because his “penis shrank to the size of a peanut on set.”
The Last Emperor (1987)
Stars: John Lone, Joan Chen, Peter O’Toole…
Fun Fact About The Movie: During filming of the immense coronation scene in the Forbidden City, Queen Elizabeth II was in Beijing on a state visit. The production was given priority over her by the Chinese authorities and she was therefore unable to visit the Forbidden City.
The Spider’s Stratagem (1970)
Stars: Giulio Brogi, Alida Valli, Pippo Campanini…
Fun Fact About The Movie: The Spider’s Stratagem (1970) and The Conformist (1970) were both made by Bernardo Bertolucci within a 12 or 18 month period and both were released in the same year.
The Dreamers (2003)
Stars: Michael Pitt, Louis Garrel, Eva Green…
Fun Fact About The Movie: To make the actors feel comfortable and natural in the film’s nude scenes, the director Bernardo Bertolucci would encourage them to be nude long before the actual shot.