BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. -- Bernardo Bertolucci won the coveted Director's Guild of America award for 'The Last Emperor,' a victory that makes him the favorite for this year's Oscar as best director.
The winner of the Director's Guild award for a motion picture has gone on to win the best director Academy Award in 37 of the past 40 years.
The Italian filmmaker called for more sophistication in movie making and less imitation of television as he accepted the award Saturday night from last year's winner, Oliver Stone, before 2,000 directors and guests at the Beverly Hilton Hotel.
'Film is an international language that demonstrates no difference of the classes. The cinema is a marvelous and dangerous weapon when it is wielded by a free spirit,' Bertolucci said.
'Too many movies have been intimidated by television,' he said. 'Movies have tried to imitate the ... language of television.'
Bertolucci, who turns 47 next week, defeated James Brooks for 'Broadcast News,' Adrian Lyne for 'Fatal Attraction,' Lasse Hallstrom for 'My Life As A Dog,' and Steven Spielberg for 'Empire of the Sun.'
Spielberg was the last exception to the DGA-Academy Award connection. He won the Guild award for 'The Color Purple' in 1985 but was not even nominated for the Oscar.
Lyne and Hallstrom also are up for this year's best-director Oscar in the April 11 awards presentation.
Bertolucci, whose 'The Last Emperor' depicts the life of Pu Yi, the last imperial ruler of China, also was nominated for the best director Academy Award in 1973 for 'Last Tango in Paris.'
Robert Wise, director of such classics as 'The Sound of Music' and 'West Side Story,' was presented the Guild's D.W. Griffith Award for his contributions to the industry.
Sheldon Leonard won the Bob Aldrich Award for service to the Guild, and Guild executive Michael Franklin received an honorary life membership.
Except for a few joking references by emcee Hal Kanter, there was no mention and no expression of support for the current strike by the Writers Guild against the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers.
Winners of directing awards in other categories included:
-Television comedy series: Will MacKenzie for ''A,' My name is Alex,' an episode of 'Family Ties.'
-Television dramatic series: Marshall Herskovitz for the pilot film of 'thirtysomething.'
-Daytime dramatic show: Victoria Hochberg for 'Just a Regular Kid: An AIDS Story,' an episode of an ABC 'Afterschool Special.'
-Television musical-variety show: Dwight Hemion for 'Julie Andrews ... Sound of Christmas.'
-Documentary-actuality: Elena Mannes for 'The Kingdom Divided.'
-Sports program: Robert A. Fishman for the Syracuse-Indiana NCAA basketball championship game.
-Television commercial: Rick Levine for 'Trouble,' for the Pepsi-Cola Co.