INTERVIEW: Director Bernardo Bertolucci on his career and Brando

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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