With a career that spans over six decades, Bernardo Bertolucci never seems to run out of stories to tell or innovative ways to shoot them. Born in the northern Italian city of Parma in 1940, Bertolucci grew up surrounded by arts and literature. His father was a writer, film critic and art history professor. He encouraged his son's creativity and interest in films and frequently took him to film screenings. By the age of 15, Bernardo Bertolucci made 2 short films and was becoming a respected writer. His first book, "In Cerca del Mistero" (In Search of Mystery), won the Premio Viareggio, one of the top literary awards in Italy.
Bertolucci originally set out to be a writer and poet like his father. In 1958 at the age of 18, he enrolled in the University of Rome and attended the Faculty of Modern Literature. Shortly thereafter, he started working under the guidance of Pier Paolo Pasolini. Bertolucci's father had helped Pasolini publish his first novel and Pasolini paid back that favor by hiring Bertolucci as a first assistant on his 1961 film, "Accattone", and that is when Bertolucci's passion for cinema took over. Following his work on that film, he quit school and embarked on his own independent study of film.
Giuseppe Bertolucci got his start in cinema in the 1970s by working on his older brother’s films. He directed his first feature film in 1977, “Berlinguer ti voglio bene” (Berlinguer, I love you) which stars a very young Roberto Benigni. “Berlinguer ti voglio bene” is the story of Italian society in the 1970s, when the major protesting was over and Italians were enjoying an economic boom. The film is set in the Tuscan town of Prato, where Benigni grew up and features the language dialect of Dante.
Giuseppe Bertolucci is known in Italy for his work at Bologna’s Cineteca, a film archive that houses more than 18,000 films. The center is internationally recognized for its excellence in film preservation and restoration.
In recent years, Bertolucci focused his energies on making documentaries, creating two films about Pier Paolo Pasolini. Perhaps he was inspired to tell the filmmaker’s story by his work at Cineteca, which has an extensive archive on Pasolini that includes photographs, films, magazines, catalogs, press clippings, theses, speeches and radio programs.
After battling a two-year illness, Giuseppe Bertolucci passed away on June 16, 2012 in the Pugliese city of Lecce. He was 65 years old.