He wanted to be a poet, was side-tracked into film, apprenticed with some of Italy’s greatest directors, produced some of the most iconic works of 1970s cinema, was behind an epic Oscar-winning success and is a key figure in the golden age of European film. Sometimes as controversial off the screen as he was on, Bernardo Bertolucci is responsible for an extraordinary body of work, which encompassed myth, history, politics, sexuality and the limits of our mortal existence.

This retrospective casts a glance over some of the filmmaker’s finest works, including ‘The Last Emperor’ (1987) his vast, sprawling portrait of China across the first half of the 20th century. That film won nine Academy Awards and cemented Bertolucci’s reputation in the US, but he had already garnered critical and commercial success in the early 1970s with his first masterpiece ‘The Conformist’ (1970), and the perennially controversial ‘Last Tango in Paris’ (1972). Both films will screen in the festival, alongside the epic Depardieu/De Niro-starring portrait of 20th century Italy, ‘1900’.

The retrospective ends with Bertolucci’s follow-up to his Oscar-winning success, ‘The Sheltering Sky’ (1990). Like all of Bertolucci’s films, it emphasises his place as one of cinemas great visual stylists and a powerful artistic force who balanced raging emotions with penetrating intelligence. - Ian Haydn Smith