May 11, 2011 / 3:27 PM / 8 years ago

Cannes honorary award goes to "Last Tango" director

CANNES, France (Reuters) - Italian filmmaker Bernardo Bertolucci, best known for his controversial film “Last Tango in Paris,” was honored by the Cannes film festival on Wednesday in recognition of his long career.

Director Bernardo Bertolucci poses during a photocall for his "Palme d'Honneur" honour award at the 64th Cannes Film Festival in Cannes, May 11, 2011. The festival runs from May 11 to 22. REUTERS/Christian Hartmann

Wheelchair-bound at age 71, Bertolucci told journalists that he had briefly lost confidence in his ability to make movies, only to rediscover it after watching three-dimensional films like James Cameron’s 2009 blockbuster “Avatar.”

“I was convinced that I could no longer shoot (movies), but then I realized a year ago that I was still able to imagine the camera’s movements,” Bertolucci, who is working on a 3D movie titled “Me and You,” told a news conference.

“I very much liked ‘Avatar’... 3D is fascinating to me, but I don’t understand why it should be reserved to science fiction or horror movies,” he added.

Bertolucci was due to receive his Palme d’Or award — which honors an influential filmmaker who has never received the top prize at Cannes — from jury president Robert De Niro at the festival’s opening ceremony later in the day.

“He is very laconic ... We’ll see if he has a few words to say, that would be good,” Bertolucci said referring to De Niro, who starred in his 1976 epic film “1900.”

A poet and writer before turning to the silver screen, Bertolucci came of age as a director during the heyday of Italian cinema in the mid-1960s and went on to make over 20 films, from sweeping historical epics to intimate dramas.

His production budgets have grown with his reputation over the past half century, culminating with the 1987 biopic “The Last Emperor,” which won nine Academy Awards including best picture.

Known by movie buffs for his rich treatment of color on-screen, Bertolucci also sealed his reputation as a fearless director and provocateur early in his career with the steamy 1972 classic, “Last Tango in Paris.”

The film, which features graphic love scenes between Marlon Brando and a much younger Maria Schneider, shocked audiences in the United States, where censors rated it “X” as a pornographic film, but delighted critics and audiences alike in France.

In Italy, the movie garnered frenzied attention at the box office in the days after its release but was soon banned by an order of the Supreme Court. It was only allowed to be released officially 15 years later.

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