Call for Proposals: The Films of Bernardo Bertolucci

deadline for submissions: 
October 15, 2023
full name / name of organization: 
Benjamin Halligan / University of Wolverhampton
contact email: 

The work of Bernardo Bertolucci (1941-2018), in its preoccupations, scope and politics, exemplifies that of the post-war generation of radical European auteurs: initial films made in the shadow of Neo-Realism, and under the influence of the French New Wave (The Grim Reaper, Before the Revolution); a full embrace of the events of 1968 (Partner, Agonia); a late modernist art cinema that interrogated the scandal of Italian war-time history and exerted a profound influence on other film-makers – particularly those of New Hollywood (The Conformist, The Spider’s Stratagem); a global “success de scandale” with Last Tango in Paris, which was still in the headlines half a century later, via #MeToo; a particularly 1970s paradox of a Marxist popular epic, in 1900; a full embrace of psychoanalysis, for the melodrama Luna; an engagement with contemporary leftist terrorism (Tragedy of a Ridiculous Man); a trilogy that looked to international audiences and, in part, received the highest international recognitions (The Last Emperor, The Sheltering Sky, Little Buddha); a blending of art house with eroticism (Stealing Beauty, Besieged); a return to 1968, now poised between nostalgia and new questions for anti-globalisation activists (The Dreamers); and a final, personal film that seemed to address a sense of distance from today’s youth, and resonated with the immobility of Bertolucci’s old age (Me and You). Bertolucci is remembered as a poet of the cinema, who blended eroticism with Marxism, grappled with (and arguably failed to break from) the positions of the Italian Communist Party, and whose cinema was rich and mysterious, revolutionary in both ideology and aesthetics, and indebted to (but not apostolic of) his masters: Rossellini, Renoir, Pasolini, Godard.

No substantial or dedicated critical or academic writing on Bertolucci has appeared in some years, even while a number of Bertolucci films remain canonised as classics. This proposed edited collection will seek to bring fresh sensibilities to Bertolucci’s work, as a totality.

The edited collection is intended for the Edinburgh University Press “ReFocus: The International Directors” series (which appear in paperback and hardback). A provisional timeline will be a deadline for invited chapters in the second quarter of 2024, for publication in 2025  – to be confirmed. Please send proposed chapter abstracts (400-500 words in a Word document, with minimal formatting), along with a biographical note (and email address/es) in the same Word document, by 15 October 2023 to

Dr Benjamin Halligan is Director of the Doctoral College of the University of Wolverhampton. He has co-edited the following books: Mark E. Smith and The Fall: Art, Music and Politics; Reverberations: The Philosophy, Aesthetics and Politics of Noise; Resonances: Noise and Contemporary Music; The Music Documentary: Acid Rock to Electropop; The Arena Concert: Music, Media and Mass Entertainment; Stories We Could Tell: Putting Words to American Popular Music by David Sanjek; Politics of the Many: Contemporary Radical Thought and the Crisis of Agency; Diva: Feminism and Fierceness from Pop to Hip-Hop and Adult Themes: British Cinema and the X-Rating in the Long 1960s. He is author of Michael Reeves (2003), Desires for Reality: Radicalism and Revolution in Western European Film (2016) and Hotbeds of Licentiousness: The British Glamour Film and the Permissive Society (2022).