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The Last Emperor
- Bernardo Bertolucci

Overview - Although it is 160 minutes long and shot with breathtaking scope and sumptuousness, Bernardo Bertolucci's film is a story about claustrophobia. Pu Yi, the Manchurian emperor of China who ascended the throne in 1908 at the age of three, is a prisoner in the palace he rules over.  Read more...

 
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More About The Last Emperor - Bernardo Bertolucci
 
 
 
Overview

Although it is 160 minutes long and shot with breathtaking scope and sumptuousness, Bernardo Bertolucci's film is a story about claustrophobia. Pu Yi, the Manchurian emperor of China who ascended the throne in 1908 at the age of three, is a prisoner in the palace he rules over. Outside, real power changes hands with each coup d'etat. Pu Yi grows to manhood, is tutored by a Westerner (Peter O'Toole), and marries a gorgeous princess (Joan Chen). However, the adult Pu Yi (John Lone) is destined for a communist reeducation camp when the war is over. From start to finish, Pu Yi is a passive antihero who can never come to grips with the idea that the absolute power conferred on him as a child was only a mirage. The mistakes Pu Yi made trying to realize that power, especially collaborating with the Japanese during the war, provide Bertolucci with the chance to explore his familiar theme of collaboration and its moral consequences (as he did in THE CONFORMIST and 1900). In the end, Pu Yi seems to have reached a kind of peace, and the terrible waste of a special man's life disappears into a drab, grey-clad Beijing.

Awards:
1987 - Academy Awards - Best Art Direction - Set Decoration Winner
1987 - Academy Awards - Best Film Editing Winner
1987 - Academy Awards - Best Picture Winner
1987 - Academy Awards - Best Sound Winner
1987 - Academy Awards - Best Original Score Winner
1987 - Academy Awards - Best Costume Design Winner
1987 - Academy Awards - Best Adapted Screenplay Winner
1987 - Academy Awards - Best Director Winner
1987 - Academy Awards - Best Cinematography Winner

Cast List

Joan Chen - Actress
Chen Chong - Actress
John Lone - Chinese-American Actor
Dennis Dun - Chinese-American Actor
Victor Wong - Chinese-American Actor
Ryuichi Sakamoto - Japanese Composer/Actor
Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa - Japanese Film/TV Actor "American Me"
Bernardo Bertolucci - Italian Director, LAST TANGO IN PARIS (1972)
David Byrne - American Singer/Songwriter
Peter O'Toole - Actor, LAWRENCE OF ARABIA
Mark Peploe - Director/Screenwriter

 
Details
    DVD Format
  • Format: DVD
  • Run Time: 164
  • Color Format: Color
  • UPC: 715515034425
  • Genre: Drama
  • Rating: PG-13 (MPAA) (Parents Strongly Cautioned)
  • Release Date: November 2008

Related Categories:
Movies > Dramas
Movies > Biography

Related Keywords:
Politics
True Story
Epic
Recommended
Character Study
Period Piece
Orient
Royalty
Theatrical Release
China
Essential Cinema

 
Movie Reviews

More Details

Synopsis:
THE LAST EMPEROR is the true story of Pu Yi, the last monarch of a China that changed drastically during his lifetime. Though he comes to power at the age of three and is waited on hand and foot by an army of servants and consorts, Pu Yi is politically powerless. His life becomes a tortuous struggle with this reality, as he is used as a puppet by the Japanese and later reeducated by the communists. Bernardo Bertolucci's award-winning film is epic, lavish, and poignant.

Notes:
The film premiered on the closing night of the Tokyo International Film Festival, October 4, 1987. Bertolucci shot the film on location, and the Chinese government allowed him to film in the Forbidden City, which for years had been closed to tourists and non-Chinese, and which had never before been filmed. Most critics agreed that this film contained one of the most lavish production designs in cinema history. Many of the costumes were Chinese originals, and the estimated budget was $25 million. This was Bertolucci's first film since TRAGEDY OF A RIDICUCLOUS MAN (1981), and it ended his six-year hiatus from directing. A longer director's cut of THE LAST EMPEROR was released in the United States in 1998.

Reviews:
"...Numbingly beautiful....Sumptuous chinoiserie..." -- Rating: B+ - 03/05/1999 Entertainment Weekly, p.71


"...A film of unique, quite unsurpassed visual splendor, THE LAST EMPEROR makes for a fascinating trip to another world..." - 10/07/1987 Variety


"...[The film] has the feel of other-worldliness, of science fiction..." - 07/01/1987 Film Comment, p.61-3


"...If you want a staggering and certainly singular movie experience, THE LAST EMPEROR will do very nicely..." - 11/29/1987 Los Angeles Times, p.C1


"[T]here's no faulting the use of genuine locations, the magnificent costumes of Vittorio Storaro's breathtaking cinematography." - 04/01/2004 Total Film, p.42


4 stars out of 5 -- "[D]izzyingly respendent....Bernardo Bertolucci's 1987 heavyweight is, perhaps, the last known sighting of the old-school epic." - 05/01/2010 Empire

 
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