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The Last Emperor (1987)

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The story of the final Emperor of China.

Writers:

Mark Peploe (screenplay), Bernardo Bertolucci (screenplay) | 1 more credit »
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Popularity
2,622 ( 894)
Won 9 Oscars. Another 48 wins & 16 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
John Lone ... Pu Yi - Adult
Joan Chen ... Wan Jung
Peter O'Toole ... Reginald 'R. J.' Johnston
Ruocheng Ying Ruocheng Ying ... The Governor (as Ying Ruocheng)
Victor Wong ... Chen Pao Shen
Dennis Dun ... Big Li
Ryuichi Sakamoto ... Amakasu (as Ryûichi Sakamoto)
Maggie Han ... Eastern Jewel
Ric Young ... Interrogator
Vivian Wu ... Wen Hsiu (as Wu Jun Mei)
Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa ... Chang (as Cary Hiroyuki Tagawa)
Jade Go Jade Go ... Ar Mo
Fumihiko Ikeda Fumihiko Ikeda ... Yoshioka
Richard Vuu ... Pu Yi - 3 Years
Tsou Tijger Tsou Tijger ... Pu Yi - 8 Years (as Tijger Tsou)
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Storyline

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 Jwelch5742

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Taglines:

1500 slaves. 353,260,000 royal subjects. Warlords. Concubines. And 2 wives. He was the loneliest boy in the world. See more »


Certificate:

PG-13 | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Country:

UK | Italy | China | France

Language:

English | Mandarin | Japanese

Release Date:

15 April 1988 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

The Last Emperor See more »

Filming Locations:

Beijing Studios, Beijing, China See more »

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Box Office

Budget:

£23,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend USA:

$149,460, 20 November 1987, Limited Release

Gross USA:

$43,984,230
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

| (television)

Sound Mix:

Dolby (35 mm prints)| 70 mm 6-Track (70 mm prints)

Color:

Color (Technicolor)

Aspect Ratio:

2.39 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

The production tracked down several people from Puyi's life, including the prison governor and his manservant, to unofficially advise the director. See more »

Goofs

When the princess gives birth, you can hear the baby crying, yet when the camera moves across, the baby has a calm expression. See more »

Quotes

Pu Yi, at 15: Is it true, Mr. Johnston, that many people out there have had their heads cut off?
Reginald Fleming 'R.J.' Johnston: It is true, your majesty. Many heads have been chopped off. It does stop them thinking.
See more »

Alternate Versions

The theatrical version runs 163 minutes. A 218 minute version was released in the US in 1998 under the mistaken title of the "Director's Cut". It was known by this erroneous title until the 2008 Criterion DVD and Blu-ray Disc came out. Bertolucci and DP Vittorio Storaro made it clear while working on the DVD and BD that the shorter theatrical version is without doubt the director's cut. The 218 minute version was an early cut meant only to be aired as a four-part television mini-series by the Italian television network that funded the film. See more »


Soundtracks

Yankee Doodle
(uncredited)
Traditional folk tune
[Played by the air-horn of the American tourist guide in the Forbidden City]
See more »

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User Reviews

 
The Last Epic
28 May 2001 | by shardikSee all my reviews

The Last Emperor, like Once Upon a Time in America, is an epic saga that delves, among various aspects, into the realm of Time and the ensuing effects it has on a human being and his culture as it passes through his lifetime. The Last Emperor of the Qing dynasty, Pu-Yi, was coronated in 1909 at the age of three and due to his youth ended up being a puppet to his adminstration. Bertolucci successfully shows us a young man who while understandably spoilt by many luxuries of monarchy, is in actuality a tender hearted, independent thinker (not doer) who is passionate about his homeland (Manchuria) and has a ravenous desire for experiencing life in the outside world. His caged lifestyle in the Forbidden City (Beijing) is definitely a major contributor to this mindset. From his infancy the director takes us through a chain of historical events that ultimately lead to Pu-Yi being an ordinary man (we know this from the beginning, however flashbacks explain his situation at the start). However, it is not the desired lifestyle that he sought as an Emperor in his youth.

The Last Emperor is breathtaking in its cinematography and Bertolucci's direction is impeccable. A lot of criticism was directed at his film '1900' (1976) due to its sheer length. The Last Emperor clocks in at 215 minutes (director's cut) and barring 10 minutes of a marriage related scene, it never lets up. Bertolucci seamlessly interweaves the flashbacks with Pu-Yi's situation in post-WWII China by providing us with a real life tragedy that epitomizes human weaknesses, vices, love and loyalty. Here is a film that is a true story but goes beyond mere narration or simple depiction - it is a three and a half hour, non-stop attention grasping journey through the spectrum of humanity that defines our lifetime through the eyes of an unfortunate soul who was a victim of circumstances like many are. Any questions that the viewer will have concerning an event in the plot will be immediately answered through the rich tapestry that Bertolucci shows when depicting Pu-Yi's imperial life.

On a technical note, the acting in this film is brilliant. John Lone deserved atleast an Oscar nomination for best actor due to his seamless portrayal of Pu-Yi. He makes his portrayal of a 21 - 60 year old Pu-Yi seem like an effortless act. Through his performance the audience feels an even greater compassion for the last emperor as we come across a man who despite all the hardships he endured was very compassionate and soft centered. The sheer down to earth nature of his character as a 55-60 year old who walks with a tired smile, forever accompanied by his loving brother, is a testament to Lone's ability to portray any age and move the audience.

Once again, it takes a Hailey's comet like event for the Academy to nominate someone from the eastern world (or non-British, non-American when it comes to best actor). The rest of the cast is also brilliant barring Ryuichi Sakamoto (who portrays the one-armed Masahiko Amakasu) who, for the most part, presents us with a classic display of Japanese overacting. Although I wouldn't call it overacting in a Kurasawa-esque/Japanese film environment, it becomes quite hilarious in a production such as this.

This apart, the film is brilliant. It is the last great epic (yes, Gladiator is very good, but is far from an epic in my mind) and somehow I hope it is rediscovered and re-appreciated as it once was back in the late eighties.

While the Oscars have always contrived to ignore the true best picture for most of the last two decades, here is an example of a best picture winner which beat the competition by miles.


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