Director Bernardo Bertolucci Dead at 77

Bernardo Bertolucci silently passed away in his Roman house in Trastevere after a long disease.
Bernardo Bertolucci, photo by Alessio Costantino

Bertolucci was 77 years old and in his life he had the chance to creatively outdo even himself: he was a poet, both with words and with pictures; he was an author with rare sensitivity but also with a sharp tongue – always ready to polemicise; he was able to romanticise facts in his documentaries and to elevate fiction to a new level of realism; he never withheld his power to stupefy his audience and experimented whenever he had the chance. 

Bernardo Bertolucci at the Venice Film Festival in 2013. Photo by Alessio Costantino

An understood genius, the multi-talented director won nine Oscar thanks to his Art, which to him meant to transgress, to trespass the borders of morality and move into the land of the unknown, visually assaulting the conformists and leaving them breathless: I am thinking about Last Tango in Paris where the line crossing passion and violence is dissolved for the sake of the seventh art.

Son of a great poet, Attilio Bertolucci, he was barely 20 years old when he got in touch with his father’s friend: Pier Paolo Pasolini, a figure intellectually close to great authors such as Moravia, Dacia Marini, Elsa Morante and many others; this is exactly the time when he won the Viareggio Poetry Price with In cerca del mistero. These, for him, were years of discovery, a cultural playground where he sharpened his creativity, the starting point towards the creation of his filmography: sixteen movies, five totally inspired by the literature he was so fond of.

Gianfranco Rosi and Bernardo Bertolucci at the Venice Film Festival, 2013

The affinity with Pier Paolo Pasolini is tangible in his first movie The skinny gossip (La commare secca), which was immediately hailed by international critics as a success by a major new talent.

His inspiration was both “national-popular” and international, constantly shifting from his country of birth Italy – more specifically Parma in Before the Revolution (Prima della Rivoluzione) – to Asia with Little Buddha (Il Piccolo Buddha) and The Last Emperor (L’ultimo imperatore). The last movie in particular earned him an unprecedented number of Oscars, the first Italian director receiving such honor in 1988.

At the end of the Nineties he went back in time with his The Dreamers, a nostalgic love letter the years of the student rebellion of ’68, a picture painted in soft tones, a narration almost observed from the keyhole that makes the viewer turn into a voyeur, stroke by the sight of Eva Green as the Venus de Milo.

But it is almost the end of Bertolucci’s fairy tale and we would like to remember him with his director hat, struggling with his disease but still directing, still feisty and still creative. 

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