Bernardo Bertolucci continues to be regarded as one of the most talented Italian filmmakers, and although his work has provoked controversy, his films have allowed him to enjoy an international reputation as a cinematic auteur. Critical assessments of his cinematic oenvre have tended to centre on two main perspectives: political readings of the content and style of his films which characterizes much Italian scholarship and the psychoanalytical interpretations of his work that have emerged from American academia since the 1970s. The present study proposes a different approach to Bertolucci's films, partly in terms of its scope - analysing each of the director's full-length fiction releases up to / sognatorilThe Dreamers (2003) - and partly in terms of its theoretical viewpoint, which is based on affective and cognitive theory, a transnational branch of film studies that has become influential since the mid-1990s. The project focuses on identifiable uses of the camera, music, mise-en-scene and narrative structure in his films, tracing common denominators and evolutions in his work since the early 1960s, and contexrualizing these filmic mechanisms within affective and cognitive theory. In particular this study outlines the way in which the earlier phase of Bertolucci's film-making is not bereft of emotional tonalities, whereas his later work, which is increasingly tailored to a viewing public wanting to be captivated by the filmic spectacle, still preserves certain aesthetic and intellectual elements of art cinema. These are identified in the presence of complex narrations demanding an active cognitive involvement on the part of viewers, and in films with emotion structures which, rather than being predicated on close viewer identification with characters, privilege the creation of moods ranging from melancholy to estrangement.