Bernardo Bertolucci is an Italian filmmaker who has made some of the most radically political films of all time. Originally Bertolucci wanted to be a poet like his father and so he attended the Faculty of Modern Literature of the University of Rome from the years 1958 to 1961. It was here where Bertolucci’s film career began, as he unexpectedly became the assistant director to the legendary filmmaker Pier Paolo Pasolini. Shortly after, Bertolucci left the University without graduating and in 1962, at the age of 22, he directed his first feature film. Bertolucci wanted to ultimately create his own personal auteur on how he felt about the cinema and so he eventually left behind many of Pasolini’s poetic ideas. The primary ideas and themes he began to focus on within his filmography explored more on the individuality of people who were forced to deal with sudden political, sexual and existential changes within their lives, but were without a straightforward solution. His greatest cinematic achievement The Conformist (1970) combines the controversial topics of politics and sexuality while exploring the rise and fall of Italian Fascism between the years of 1920 until 1943. Bertolucci stirred even more controversy in 1972 with the film Last Tango in Paris, which is now considered one of the most erotic romantic films of all time. The film portrays a recently widowed American (Marlon Brando) who begins an anonymous sexual relationship with a young betrothed Parisian woman (Maria Schneider). It was a scene which featured anal sex that many thought to be cruelly exploitative and it caused serious concern due to its representation of women. The film’s raw portrayal of sexual violence and emotional turmoil led to international controversy and drew various levels of government censorship as the MPAA in the United States gave the film an X rating. Bertolucci increased his fame with his film 1900 (1976), an epic depiction of the struggles of farmers in Emilia-Romagna from the beginning of the 20th century with an impressive international cast. But it was the epic film The Last Emperor in 1987 which became universally and critically acclaimed and won Bertolucci the Academy Award for Best Director. The film was a biographical story which told the life story of Aisin-Gioro Puyi, the last Emperor of China and was the first feature film ever authorized by the government of the People’s Republic of China to be shot in the Forbidden City. In 2011 Bernardo Bertolucci received recognition of his extraordinary cinematic achievements when he was presented with the inaugural Honorary Palme d’Or Award at the opening ceremony of the Cannes Film Festival.
In one of the greatest of all art films comes Bernardo Bertolucci’s The Conformist; a film that combines the controversial topics of politics and sexuality into one of the most fascinating and complex character studies in all of film history. The Conformist tells the story about the rise and fall of Italian Fascism between the years of […]