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A dramatic history of Pu Yi, the last of the Emperors of China, from his lofty birth and brief reign in the Forbidden City, the object of worship by half a billion people; through his abdication, his decline and dissolute lifestyle; his exploitation by the invading Japanese, and finally to his obscure existence as just another peasant worker in the People's Republic. Written by
Martin H. Booda <email@example.com>
Most of the exterior and interior scenes of Henry Pu-yi's mansion during his years as a puppet emperor for the Japanese (most notably the "Coronation Ball" scene) were filmed at the Imperial Palace in Changchun, where the real Pu Yi lived from 1934 to 1945. The mansion is now a museum. See more »
When Johnston and Henry Pu-yi say "farewell" to each other and as the musicians appear and follow Johnston, reflections are visible in such a way that indicate that the scene was actually shot through the glass of a pre-existing structure. The reflections are not consistent with anything else in the shot. See more »
Bernardo Bertolucci's "The Last Emperor" is a monumental, perfect film, and stands as one of the great artistic achievements in any artistic medium.
Told in a complicated flashback/ flash-forward style, it's the story of Pu Yi (born 1906) who was the last absolute monarch of China. During his lifetime he falls from the Lord of Ten Thousand Years, the emperor/God of billions of Chinese, to an anonymous peasant worker in communist China.
Pu Yi was the child emperor from 1908 until the Chinese revolution in 1911 when he had to abdicate. He was allowed to remain in the Forbidden City but was stripped of his power by the communists. He was expelled from the city in 1924 by a warlord. In 1932, Puyi was installed by the Japanese as the ruler of Manchukuo, a puppet state of Imperial Japan. At the end of World War II, Pu yi was captured by the Soviet Red Army and turned over to the Chinese communists. Considered a traitor, he spent ten years in a reeducation camp until he was declared reformed. He voiced his support for the Communists and worked at the Beijing Botanical Gardens.
This film vividly portrays the change from the imperial and religious traditions of ancient China to the godless totalitarianism of modern communist China, so the film is, on one level, the story of China's revolutionary transition from imperialism to communism.
Visually the film is stunning especially the scenes in the Forbidden City. It was the first film to receive permission to film in the Forbidden City.
The film can be enjoyed on the first viewing but really demands more than one viewing and some knowledge of history. In this respect it resembles Akira Kurasawa's masterpiece "The Seven Samurai.
The cast includes John Lone as emperor Pu Yi, Joan Chen, and Peter O'Toole.
The film won 9 Oscars including best director and best film. A must see on DVD widescreen or in the theater.
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