This sweeping account of the life of Pu-Yi, the last emperor of China, follows the leader's tumultuous reign. After being captured by the Red Army as a war criminal in 1950, Pu-Yi recalls his childhood from prison. He remembers his lavish youth in the Forbidden City, where he was afforded every luxury but unfortunately sheltered from the outside world and complex political situation surrounding him. As revolution sweeps through China, the world Pu-Yi knew is dramatically upended.Written by
The Buddhist lamas who appear in the film could not be touched by women, so extra male wardrobe helpers were hired to dress them. See more »
In numerous scenes taking place before the establishment of the People's Republic of China writings in simplified Chinese characters can be seen. However, these were only introduced in 1949. During the Qing dynasty much more elaborate traditional characters would have been in use. See more »
In Japan, the theatrical release was originally cut by about 5 minutes, omitting the scene where actual footage of the results of the areas in China that were affected by the Japanese invasion (including Japanese atrocities) was shown to the prisoners, and Pu-Yi standing up saying to himself "I'm totally responsible." After a public outcry by China, this scene was restored and shown fully uncut at 218 minutes. 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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