Oscar-winning Italian filmmaker Bernardo Bertolucci has died in Rome at the age of 77, according to the Italian press. Born in 1941 in Parma, Bertolucci made his directorial debut in 1962 at the age of 21 with La Commare Secca, known by its English title The Grim Reaper. 10 years into his movie career, he directed 1972’s controversial erotic drama Last Tango In Paris, starring Marlon Brando as a middle-aged American widower who begins an anonymous love affair with Jeanne, a young Parisian woman played by Maria Schneider. The film caused consternation for ratings boards due to its scenes of sex and sexual violence, but also received positive reviews and saw Bertolucci receive an Oscar nomination for Best Director. Marlon Brando won the Academy Award for Best Actor for his performance in the film.
Bertolucci saw more Oscar success with his 1987 film The Last Emperor – a near three-hour biographical epic about the life of Puyi, China’s last Emperor, spanning from his youth into adulthood, and through his imprisonment in the wake of World War II. The film was nominated for nine Oscars and won all of them – including Best Picture and Best Director. The Last Emperor also won Best Film at the BAFTAs and the Golden Globes. Bertolucci’s final film was 2012 Italian-language drama Me and You.
Last Tango In Paris became even more controversial in recent years after Schneider spoke about her experience of shooting the film’s rape scene. Schneider, who was 19 at the time of shooting, stated that Bertolucci and Brando neglected to inform her fully of what the scene involved until just before it was shot. In 2007, she gave an interview to the Daily Mail stating that she felt “humiliated” and “a little raped” by Bertolucci and Brando. In 2013, Bertolucci stated that Schneider knew about the scene, though a detail involving butter was improvised on the day and was not communicated to Schneider. She is said to have reconciliated with Brando, but not with Bertolucci, before her death in 2011.
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