Bernardo Bertolucci was born 16 March 1941. He is an Italian film director and screenwriter, whose films include The Conformist, Last Tango in Paris, 1900, The Last Emperor, The Sheltering Sky and The Dreamers. In recognition of his work, he was presented with the inaugural Honorary Palme d’Or Award at the opening ceremony of the 2011 Cannes Film Festival. Bertolucci initially wished to become a poet like his father. With this goal in mind, he attended the Faculty of Modern Literature of the University of Rome from 1958 to 1961, where his film career as an assistant director to Pasolini began. Shortly after, Bertolucci left the University without graduating. In 1962, at the age of 22, he directed his first feature film, produced by Tonino Cervi with a screenplay by Pasolini, called La commare secca (1962).
Bertolucci stirred controversy in 1972, with the film Last Tango in Paris, with Marlon Brando and Maria Schneider, Jean-Pierre Léaud and Massimo Girotti, when a scene featuring anal sex performed on character Jeane by character Paul, among other depictions of the young Schneider that were thought to be exploitative, caused serious concern due to its representation of women. During filming, the 20-year-old Schneider was not aware of the scene and, in fact, was only told moments before it was filmed. To her death on 3 February 2011, she still had not forgiven Bertolucci for what she considered an emotional rape. During the actual scene, she has also said she was crying real tears as she felt humiliated and violated by both Brando and Bertolucci. As a direct result, she became a women’s rights advocate, especially fighting for more female film directors, more respect for female actors, and better representation of females in film and media.
Brando too felt raped by Bertolucci, and did not speak to him for many years as a result of the trauma of being involved with the film. Last Tango in Paris presents Brando’s character Paul as he uses an anonymous affair to cope with the violent death of his wife by emotionally and physically dominating a young woman. The film caused criminal proceedings to be brought against Bertolucci in Italy for the anal sex scene, and the film was sequestered by the censorship commission and all copies were ordered to be destroyed. An Italian court revoked Bertolucci’s civil rights for five years and gave him a four-month suspended prison sentence. In 1978, the Appeals Court of Bologna ordered three copies of the film to be preserved in the national film library with the stipulation that they could not be viewed, until Bertolucci was later able to re-submit it for general distribution with no cuts.
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