Bernardo Bertolucci emerged in the 1970’s as a strong figure in Italian cinema. Starting with Spider’s Stratagem (1970) and, in particular, The Conformist, Bertolucci set himself apart with a thematic and visual style of his own.
Starting in the mid-1970s, Bertolucci’s films increasingly focused less on Italy. Last Tango in Paris explores the free love mantra of the 1960s through the affair between a older widower and younger woman. The Last Emperor, for which Bertolucci won an Oscar, details the life of China’s last emperor as the country turns into a Republic and then a Communist dictatorship. Then, beginning in the late 1980s, Bertolucci’s films began to reflect a conscious turn from overt political messages. Due to the nature of his past films, though, this absence in his later work in the end makes its own political point. Nevertheless, regardless of the topic or locale, Bertolucci’s films remain unmistakably his: poignant, nuanced, critical, and majestic.