Bertolucci: Seminal Italian Director (Last Tango in Paris, Last Emperor) Dies at 77

The brilliant Italian and international director Bernardo Bertolucci, whose 1987 lavish epic, The Last Emperor, won nine Oscars (out of nine nominations) has died.  He was 77.

His publicist, Flavia Schiavi, said Bertolucci died at his home in Rome at 7 a.m. Monday. He had been suffering from cancer.

Bertolucci has influenced generations of international filmmakers with other groundbreaking works, such as “The Conformist” in 1970, and the 1973 controversial feature “Last Tango in Paris,” (success de scandal), in which he explored sexuality graphically through personal storytelling and audacious visual style.

Italy’s greatest auteur of his generation, Bertolucci had worked both in Europe (Italy and France) and Hollywood, though his relationship with the studios was not an easy one.  However, even when he operated within the studio system, Bertolucci managed to make personal films that were considered projections of his unique vision.

In 1987, an adaptation of the autobiography of China’s last imperial ruler, Pu Yi, The Last Emperor, swept the 1987 Oscars, winning every category in which it had been nominated, including best picture and best director.  Bertolucci thus became the first and only Italian to win the Oscar for best director, though not for Italian film (the epic was in English).

Among other achievements, “The Last Emperor” was also the first Western epic about China made with the Chinese government’s cooperation, and shot on location.