Officials at the Cannes Film Festival have just announced that respected Italian film director - Bernardo Bertolucci - will be presented with an Honorary Palme d'or at the opening ceremonies on May 11th on the picturesque French Riviera in the south of France.
A handful of notable directors have received the coveted award in the past - Woody Allen (2002) and Clint Eastwood (2009) - for example.
The President of the prestigious Festival - Gilles Jacob - will head up the much-ballyhooed celebrations on behalf of the discerning Board of Directors.
The filmmaker has distinguished himself as a great auteur with a remarkable body of work - that includes masterpieces such as the Conformist (1970), the Last Tango in Paris (1978) and The Last Emperor (1982).
Bertolucci has been lauded over the course of his enviable film career - not only for his particular focus on political and social issues - but, also - for his unrelenting bold-faced efforts to elevate the realm of celluloid - and its artistry - to the heights of profound thought-provoking imagery and unique poetic lyricism.
"The quality of his work which appears today in all its uniqueness, and the extent of this work we perceive every day more vividly, the strength of his commitment to cinema, and the ties that bind him to Cannes, make Bernaldo Bertollucci the first legitimate recipient." Jacob was quick to gush to the media at a press conference.
The Honorary Palme d'or will be presented on May 11th, at the "Opening Night" of the 64th edition of the Festival.
Robert De Niro, who chaired the Jury, is expected to be present for the auspicious occasion.
The Palme d’Or is usually awarded to one of the filmmakers in competition.
But, the honorary Palme d’Or has also been bestowed upon important filmmakers, when their work has been deemed "authoritative” - and the director - has failed to wrangle the prize during the fierce annual competition.
Bertolucci was born in the Italian city of Parma.
The visionary director was the elder son of Ninetta (a teacher) and Attilio Bertolucci (who was a poet, a reputed art historian, anthologist and film critic).
Bertolucci's childhood influences appeared to spell his fate from the get-go!
He began writing at the age of fifteen, and early on, won several prestigious literary prizes including the Premio Viareggio for his first book.
Bertolucci's films tend to put a searing spotlight on themes related to sex, politics and cinephilia.
I recall attending the premiere of the "Last Tango in Paris" in Vancouver (Canada) and being thoroughly shocked by the subject matter.
The voyeuristic flick approached the issue of sexuality in an extremely carnal and disturbing way.
Too erotic (perverted?) for mainstream North American audiences?
Needles to say, there was quite an uproar when the controversial feature was first released in Canada, and outraged filmgoers have never looked at butter the same way ever since!
"The Conformist" dealt with fascist Italy and was seen as both artistic and intellectual in nature.
"The Dreamers" (released a scant few years ago) was one Bertolucci favorite of mine that underscored to me the auteur was still capable of seducing an audience with themes that resonated with truth and conviction while ruffling their sensibilities to the core.
The tony Cannes Film festival - which usually features a must-see roster of leading-edge films - is attended by noteworthy film critics from around the globe - and likewise - attracts a jet set elite in the realm of film who are drawn to the exotic fest like moth to flame each year
See 'ya there!
Directing smooth as Butter!