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Oscar-winning director Bernardo Bertolucci dies aged 77

Italian film-maker Bernardo Bertolucci, who won Oscars with The Last Emperor and whose erotic drama Last Tango in Paris enthralled and shocked the world, died today aged 77.

Bertolucci's press office, Punto e Virgola, confirmed the death in an email to The Associated Press. Italy's state-run RAI said Bertolucci died at his home in Rome, surrounded by family.

"He will be remembered among the greatest in Italian and world film," the Venice Film Festival, which awarded Bertolucci a lifetime achievement award in 2007, said in a statement.

Bertolucci's movies often explored the sexual relations among characters stuck in a psychological crisis, as in Last Tango, which was banned in his own Italy for over a decade.

The self-professed Marxist also did not shy away from politics and ideology, as in The Conformist, which some critics consider Bertolucci's masterpiece.

Despite working with A-list American and international stars, Bertolucci always defended his own film-making style against what he said was the pressure of the US film industry.

He maintained critical success for most of his career, weathering the controversies that his sexually provocative work would stir and some commercial flops.

"When it comes to commercial cinema, I have the strange pleasure of feeling that I'm from another tribe, an infiltrator," he told Italian daily Corriere della Sera in 1990.

He was honoured for lifetime achievement at the Cannes film festival in 2011, when he was already wheelchair-bound.

Bertolucci's movies also bore the imprint of the director's own experiences in psychoanalysis. He always said that making films was his way of communicating with the audience. It was his personal language.

"Maybe I'm an idealist, but I still think of the movie theatre as a cathedral where we all go together to dream the dream together," he said upon receiving an award from the Director's Guild of America for his 1987 film The Last Emperor.

That movie handed Bertolucci his greatest success. In 1988 it won all the nine Academy Awards that it had been nominated for — including best movie and best director.

FILE - In this file photo taken on Oct. 18, 2012, poses for photographers during a photo call in Rome. Bertolucci, who won Oscars with "The Last Emperor" and whose erotic drama "Last Tango in Paris" enthralled and shocked the world, has died at the age of 77. Bertolucci's press office, Punto e Virgola, confirmed the death Monday, Nov. 26, 2018, in an email to The Associated Press. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)
Italian film director Bernardo Bertolucci in 2012. Source: Associated Press