Bernardo Bertolucci, the Italian filmmaker whose sensual and visually stylistic movies ranged from intense chamber dramas to panoramic historical epics, died Monday at his home in Rome. He was 77.
His death was confirmed by his wife, Clare Peploe, in a statement that did not specify the cause.
Bertolucci's early work reflected the revolutionary spirit of the 1960s and '70s, in particular the shifting social and sexual mores of the times. While several of his films delved into the traumas of his country's recent past, he fashioned himself as a global auteur.
Coming of age as the Italian neorealist movement was on the wane, he drew inspiration from the French new wave and worked across borders and with international casts.
Many of Bertolucci's films were warmly embraced by Hollywood. "The Last Emperor" (1987), a lavish biopic of Pu Yi, who became the emperor of China at the age of 3, won all nine Academy Awards for which it was nominated, including best picture and best director.
Bertolucci's best-knownfilm came earlier in his career: "Last Tango in Paris" (1972), an explicit depiction of the intense sexual relationship between a middle-aged American widower and a young Frenchwoman. A worldwide sensation, it was lauded by some for pushing the boundaries of sexual representation, and denounced by others as misogynistic or pornographic.
Bertolucci was born on March 16, 1941, in Parma, Italy, into an artistically inclined family. His father, Attilio, was a renowned poet and occasional film critic; his mother, Ninetta, taught literature.
At age 20, Bertolucci dropped out of the University of Rome when the opportunity arose to assist a neighbor and family friend, Pier Paolo Pasolini, on the set of Pasolini's first feature, "Accattone" (1961).
Despite early success as a poet, he chose to devote himself to cinema. Expanded from a story treatment by Pasolini, his directing debut, "The Grim Reaper," about the murder of a prostitute in a Roman park, premiered at the Venice Film Festival in 1962.