Critic Reviews



Based on 15 critic reviews provided by
It probably is unforgivably bourgeois to admire a film because of its locations, but in the case of The Last Emperor the narrative cannot be separated from the awesome presence of the Forbidden City, and from Bertolucci's astonishing use of locations, authentic costumes and thousands of extras to create the everyday reality of this strange little boy.
The small screen doesn't quite do justice to the rich visuals but with an incredible story and fine performances, it is still a compulsive and moving epic.
This grand and powerful biography begins in 1908 when, at the age of three, Pu Yi was named emperor of China and follows him through a tumultuous life inextricably intertwined with the history of modern-day China, one that that ended with the once-coddled emperor working quietly as a gardener at Peking's Botanical Gardens.
Boston Globe
The most startling achievement of The Last Emperor is that it accomplishes what seems to have eluded Bertolucci for some time. He has found the small in the large and, in many ways, he has created what many thought impossible -- an intimate epic. [18 Dec 1987, p.95]
Chicago Reader
Bernardo Bertolucci's visually ravishing spectacle about the life of Pu Yi is a genuine rarity: a blockbuster that manages to be historically instructive and intensely personal at the same time.
That Bertolucci -- with his momentous visual choreography, and Vittorio Storaro's velvety cinematography -- manages to touch on all of this makes The Last Emperor a remarkable achievement. The politics and pageantry tend to overrun the story at times, but it seems appropriate -- Emperor Pu Yi was overwhelmed by such things.
Wall Street Journal
The movie's considerable emotional force springs from the splendor of its visual poetry. Mr. Bertolucci allows the sweep of 60 years of Chinese history to unfold around Pu Yi as background noise to his peculiar, poignant role in the emergence of modern China. [25 Nov 1987, p.1]
Chicago Tribune
A hesitant, conservative approach that yields great elegance and a rhythm that carries the viewer along. Yet the film is haunted by a sense of opportunities not taken, of an artist deliberately reining in his artistry. [9 Dec 1987, p.2]
Stunning opulence dazzles the eye.
The Last Emperor is like an elegant travel brochure. It piques the curiosity. One wants to go. Ultimately it's a let-down.

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