Bernardo Bertolucci, absent from the moviemaking world since The Dreamers seven years ago, sounds unexpectedly chipper. Reached by Skype at home in Rome, the director has just returned from a late afternoon swim, where he met with novelist Niccolò Ammaniti. Though he's been crippled by back problems for several years, Bertolucci is optimistic about making Ammaniti's latest book, Io e te, into a movie. "I sublimated everything about the body so I have more room for the mind," he says, in deliberate, accented English, "and thinking about a new project."
But the occasion of our conversation is everything else Bertolucci has done, spotlighted in a career retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art, which runs through January 12. With the 15 features, three documentaries, one short, and a few films made by others about him, it's a comprehensive tribute to the 69-year-old director of The Conformist, Last Tango in Paris and The Last Emperor, who first made a splash at Cannes with his 1962 debut, The Grim Reaper. He was 21.
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