“A giant of Italian filmmaking, he will remain forever a leading light in world cinema,” the Cannes Film Festival tweeted. Bertolucci served as jury president at Cannes in 1990 and won an honorary Palme for lifetime achievement in 2011.
Famous for such major works as “Last Tango in Paris” and “The Conformist,” Bertolucci was the only Italian to win a best director Oscar, an accolade he picked up for “The Last Emperor,” which scored nine Academy Awards in all.
“The greatest of them all has left us, the last emperor of Italian cinema,” actor Roberto Benigni, who won an Oscar for his performance in “Life Is Beautiful,” and his wife, Nicoletta Braschi, said in a statement. “A part of our family, a brotherly friend, loving, full of joy, unpredictable, very rigorous and implacable in always telling us the truth. His cinema will continue to stand among the wonders of the 20th century.”
Fellow Italian auteur Franco Zeffirelli said: “It’s very sad to say goodbye to a very dear friend and a director of great talent like Bernardo Bertolucci, who with his work managed to transport us into unique artistic dimensions.”
Directors Guild of America president Thomas Schlamme said “Bernardo turned mainstream cinema on its ear.”
“His films were provocative, meticulous, and courageous,” Schlamme said in a statement. “In ‘The Last Emperor,’ for which he won the DGA Award, Bertolucci majestically captured turn-of-the-century China during a time of political and cultural transition — the result was epic filmmaking at its most masterful. Upon accepting the award, Bertolucci shared a quote about cinema that continues to inspire so many directors: ‘Maybe I’m an idealist, but I still think of the movie theater as a cathedral where we all go together to dream the dream together.’ He will forever stand as inspiration for many generations of filmmakers to come.”
Toronto Film Festival artistic director said, “Thank you for the light.”
Director Guillermo del Toro listed his three favorite Bertolucci films among a series of tweets.
Bertolucci also twice presided over the Venice Film Festival’s jury, 30 years apart, in 1983 and 2013. “He will be remembered among the greatest masters of Italian and international cinema,” the festival said.
Actor Antonio Banderas lamented the passing of “a master of filmmakers. Thanks for so much talent!”
Carlo Chatrian, the chief of the Locarno Film Festival and artistic director Berlin Film Festival starting in 2020, said that cinema had “lost one of its poets.”
Nick Vivarelli contributed to this story.