Bernardo Bertolucci

Last Tango in Paris (1972)

Last Tango in Paris (1972)

  • Born: 1940
  • Rank: 94
  • Score: 485.35
  • Awards: Oscar / DGA / Golden Globe / NSFC
  • Nominations: 2 Oscars / 2 DGA / 3 Golden Globes
  • Feature Films: 16
  • Best: Last Tango in Paris
  • Worst: Besieged

Top 5 Films:

  1. Last Tango in Paris – 1972
  2. The Last Emperor – 1987
  3. Sheltering Sky – 1990
  4. The Conformist – 1970
  5. The Grim Reaper – 1962

Top 10 Director finishes (Nighthawk Awards):

  • 1973 – 4th – Last Tango in Paris
  • 1987 – 2nd – The Last Emperor

There are two sides to Bertolucci. On the one hand, he suffers from the same problem that many people accused David Lean of in his later films: that they are beautiful films with nothing much there. There is no question that all of Bertolucci’s films are beautifully photographed. I often marvel though at how little depth there is to them.

On the other hand for those of us who appreciate adult films dealing with sexuality that are neither purile nor porn, there is no better director than Bertolucci. Last Tango in Paris was revered by many critics (most notably Pauline Kael) for being an adult film that dealt frankly with the problem of sex. But Bertolucci has continued that with such films as Sheltering Sky, Stealing Beauty and The Dreamers.

Perhaps the reason his other films can’t quite come together as well as Tango is because of the actors. Bertolucci has made 16 films and while Brando’s performance in Tango is one of the great performances in the history of film, it is also better than every performance in the other 15 films put together.

The Last Emperor – #7 film of 1987

As I discovered when I put up my list of all the Best Picture nominees and ranked them The Last Emperor causes a lot of reactions among serious film fans. There are quite simply a lot of people who don’t like it. It scored highly with critics at the time and the New York Times includes it in its book of the top 1000 movies, but the actually Times review is hardly a positive one. In retrospect it’s easy to imagine it might not have swept the 1987 Oscars with 9 awards. Many of them were unquestionably deserved, like Costume Design, Art Direction and Makeup. But would it still win Adapted Screenplay or Picture?

There are 16 films from 1987 listed on the top 1000 and Emperor is not one of them. The reason it doesn’t get mentioned in conversations with other pictures people want to go back and take the award from (like How Green Was My Valley, Ordinary People or Crash) is that unlike those years (which had Citizen Kane, Raging Bull and Brokeback Mountain) there isn’t a clear consensus on which film should have won. None of the other 4 nominees from that year are in the top 1000 either. Hope and Glory is the best contender because it was nominated for the Oscar and the BAFTA (losing both to Emperor), was the other Golden Globe winner (aside from Emperor), and unlike Emperor, won two major critics awards for Best Picture (Emperor was in a short trend of Oscar winners for Best Picture that didn’t win any major critics award, along with Out of Africa, Platoon and Rain Man).

I think The Last Emperor is a great film, a **** film that falls just short of my top 5 for that year (my own top 5 from that year is The Princess Bride, Au Revoir Les Enfants, Hope and Glory, Broadcast News and Empire of the Sun). But it has pacing problems that prevent it from being a slightly better film and I think that actually stems from the script. Bertolucci was never much of a writer (he actually co-wrote the script), but he always knew how to direct, which is why it was still my #2 of the year for director (behind Spielberg).

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