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Venice Film Festival To Honor Bernardo Bertolucci


Thursday, August 23--------The Venice International Film Festival has announced that it will honor the filmmaker Bernardo Bertolucci with a special achievement award. Bertolucci will receive the 75th Anniversary Golden Lion at the Festival, which opens next week.

One of the seminal filmmaker auteurs of the last 50 years, Bernardo Bertolucci was born in the Italian city of Parma. He was the second son of his father, a poet and art historian. Bertolucci began writing at the age of fifteen, and soon after received several prestigious literary prizes including the Premio Viareggio for his first book. His father's background helped his career: the elder Bertolucci had helped the Italian filmmaker Pier Paolo Pasolini publish his first novel, and Pasolini reciprocated by hiring the young Bertolucci as first assistant in Rome on his acclaimed film ACCATONE (1961).  Bertolucci initially wished to become a poet like his father, and with this goal in mind, attended the University of Rome from 1958 to 1961. Bertolucci left the University without graduating, directing his first film in 1962, at the age of 21, the short murder mystery LA COMMARE SECCA. He became an international sensation with his second film, BEFORE THE REVOLUTION (1964).

In THE CONFORMIST (1970), he mixed sexuality and politics, which would be an on-going film for him. The film was one of the few to openly repudiate Italy's history of fascism under Mussolini, and pressed many hot buttons in its native Italy on the relationship between nationhood and nationalism, as well as issues of popular taste and collective memory. In the epic 1900 (1976), starring Burt Lancaster, Donald Sutherland, Robert de Niro and Gerard Depardieu, the epic struggle between the left and the right is played out in turn of the century Italy.

Even in the sexually sensational LAST TANGO IN PARIS (1972), memorably starring Marlon Brando and Maria Schneider, the fatalism of the new open sexuality was ripped apart in a story of bitter irony and sexual longing Psychoanalysis is also central to the film, with Marlon Brando claiming that Bertolucci's sharing of psychoanalytical confidences with the star on the set helped elicit the performance that many consider Brando's best. In this and other films, Bertolucci examines the power of sexual relations in people's lives. STEALING BEAUTY (1996) gives a visual account of a girl growing into a woman during a summer abroad. In THE DREAMERS (2003), the sexual relations of three main characters serve to expose their thoughts, reflecting the chaos on the streets as France experiences the student and worker revolts of May 1968.

Bertolucci had his biggest international success in 1987, with the epic THE LAST EMPEROR, a biographical film that told the life story of Aisin-Gioro Pu Yi, the last Emperor of China. The film won 9 Academy Awards (winning in all the categories in which it was nominated). Bertolucci himself won a Best Director Oscar, and the film won for Best Picture, Best Art Direction, Best Cinematography, Best Costume Design, Best Film Editing, Best Music, Best Sound and Best Writing. THE LAST EMPEROR was the first feature film ever authorized by the government of the People's Republic of China to film in the Forbidden City. It became the first Western film made in China since 1949, receiving full Chinese government cooperation.

The director is at work on his 28th film, a still untitled project on the life of 16th-century Italian musician Gesualdo da Venosa, who killed his first wife and her lover.

Sandy Mandelberger, Awards Watch Editor

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