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Bernardo Bertolucci (1941 – 2018), Oscar-winning Italian director

(Valery Hache / AFP / Getty Images)

Acclaimed films include “The Last Emperor” and “Last Tango in Paris”

Bernardo Bertolucci (1941 – 2018) was an Italian director whose films were often critically-acclaimed and frequently controversial. “The Last Emperor” (1987), a film about the life of Pu Yi, the last emperor of China, swept the Academy Awards, winning him Best Director and Best Adapted Screenplay. It also took home the Oscar for Best Picture. “Last Tango in Paris” (1972) was banned in his native Italy for its graphic depiction of an anonymous, and sometimes violent, sexual relationship between an older man and younger woman. His film “The Conformist” (1970) is regarded as a masterpiece of world cinema for its depiction of a man conforming to fit the norms of Fascist Italy.

His films frequently explored themes of sexuality and psychology while featuring rich cinematography. He worked with several Hollywood stars, including Marlon Brando, Robert De Niro, and Keanu Reeves, as well as helping to launch Liv Tyler and Eva Green to stardom.

He was married to British screenwriter and director Clare Peploe from 1979 until his death.

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Died: Monday, November 26, 2018 (Who else died on November 26?)

Details of death: Died at his home in Rome of cancer at the age of 77.


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The complicated legacy of “Last Tango”: In recent years interview footage surfaced of Bertolucci discussing improvisation in “Last Tango’s” most notorious scene of sexual violence. He did not discuss all the aspects of what would happen in the scene with actress Maria Schneider, who was 19 at the time, because he wanted “her reaction as a girl, not as an actress.”

Schneider, who died in 2011, had spoken about being traumatized by the experience in 2007, blaming Bertolucci and co-star Marlon Brando for the way she had been treated. Bertolucci admitted to feeling guilty but got the results he was looking for on film.

The controversy put a spotlight on the question of what constitutes appropriate behavior in pursuit of creating art.

Notable quote: “All my characters are average persons who are conscious of being average, and they’re made uncomfortable by being made aware of this,” he told Rolling Stone in a 1973 interview.

What people said about him: “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,” —Vittorio Storaro, Oscar-winning cinematographer of “The Last Emperor”

Full obituary: The Washington Post

Related lives:

Milos Forman (1932 - 2018), two-time Academy Award-winning director

Ermanno Olmi (1931 - 2018), Italian cinematic legend

Jonathan Demme (1944 - 2017), Oscar-winning director of “The Silence of the Lambs”

Marlon Brando (1924 - 2004), acting legend