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The Last Emperor (The Criterion Collection)

John Lone , Joan Chen , Bernardo Bertolucci    PG-13 (Parental Guidance Suggested)   DVD
3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (109 customer reviews)
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Product Description


Bernardo Bertolucci does the nearly impossible with this sweeping, grand epic that tells a very personal tale. The story is a dramatic history of Pu Yi, the last of the emperors of China. It follows his life from its elite beginnings in the Forbidden City, where he was crowned at age three and worshipped by half a billion people. He was later forced to abdicate and, unable to fend for himself in the outside world, became a dissolute and exploited shell of a man. He died in obscurity, living as a peasant in the People's Republic. We never really warm up to John Lone in the title role, but this movie focuses more on visuals than characterization anyway. Filmed in the Forbidden City, it is spectacularly beautiful, filling the screen with saturated colors and exquisite detail. It won nine Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Director. --Rochelle O'Gorman

Product Description

Bernardo Bertolucci's The Last Emperor won nine Academy Awards®, unexpectedly sweeping every category in which it was nominated quite a feat for a challenging, multilayered epic directed by an Italian and starring an international cast. Yet the power and scope of the film was, and remains, undeniable the life of Emperor Pu Yi, who took the throne at age three, in 1908, before witnessing decades of cultural and political upheaval, within and without the walls of the Forbidden City. Recreating Ching-dynasty China with astonishing detail and unparalleled craftsmanship by cinematographer Vittorio Storaro and production designer Ferdinando Scarfiotti, The Last Emperor is also an intimate character study of one man reconciling personal responsibility and political legacy.

Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
By K. Gordon TOP 50 REVIEWER
First off, Criterion does their usual impeccable job with both the transfer
and the extras on this new disc.

There is some interesting controversy about aspect ratios and cuts with various
releases of the film. The Criterion releases have been reformatted from
the original 2:35 to 2:1, but it was done at the request of, and under the
supervision of cinematographer Vittorio Storaro.

Also, the Criterion BR doesn't have the longer Italian TV cut, but the
2 disc Criterion DVD does.

Then there is the 2 disc Optimum UK DVD set which has the film in
it's original 2:35 theatrical ratio (and a quite nice transfer, if not quite
up to Criterion's quality.) It also contains the longer TV cut, but in a
transfer much weaker than the Criterion DVD.

Now, as for the film itself...

I can understand someone loving "The Last Emperor" (as I do), or being
bored stiff. Visually ravishing, it is an epic film about an empty man,
the last emperor of China Pu Yi.

Raised from birth with no real experience of the outside world, trained
only to fulfill his role as a symbolic figurehead, we watch Pu Yi swept
along by the great tides of history in the 20th century east. Only
after going through ten years 're-education' at the hands of the
Chinese communists does he start to seem connected to the world and to

The film forces a lot of challenging 're-thinking'.
Read more ›
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5.0 out of 5 stars REMEMBERING MY CHINA TRIP April 29 2013
Format:DVD|Verified Purchase
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars great blu-ray feature July 21 2009
I wish all blu-rays had this feature, but so far Last Emperor is the only disc I own where under Timeline you can add and delete your own bookmarks (utilizing the remote's green & blue buttons). It makes for easy access to your favourite scenes or where you last left off. The epic itself is a huge cinematic achievement and deserved of the additional blu-ray features which also include numerous documentaries and featurettes (over 4 hrs. worth).
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating story, but overblow production! March 4 2000
Format:VHS Tape
This film is too aware of the epic proportions of its story. This is a shame because the story is a fascinating one. It tells of Pu Y, who became China's last emperor during the early part of the 20th century. He lived in the Forbidden City, unknowlegable of the world and even the country around him. As a very young child and through his teens he had everything done for him, but then is pitched away when the country becomes involved in war. Not aware of life it becomes an uphill task to accustom himself. The story is incredible and actually excellent material for a mini-series. And, unlike a lot of mini-series would not be boring or stretched beyond interest. There is a lot of material here. But rather than rely on that material, director Bernardo Bertolucci elects to ignore the foundation and depend instead on never letting the audience forget the size of the tale. We are as an audience, therefore, put off everytime the story moves to a new plateau. We are forced to ask questions that are not answered because he attempts to cram too much spectacle into a three-hour movie.Technically, the film is superior. Its costumes, art direction and editing are incomparable. The music score co-written by David Byrne (formerly of the rock band, Talking Heads) is also superb. But it's the cinematography that is really the thing here. If it wasn't for that, the few bare threads of the original story that do come through would have been non-existant, leaving the film as shallow as they come.But the characters are the thing here and they become mere backdrops for Bertolucci's overblown self-awareness. It's not that Pu Y comes across cold and distant as some critics have remarked. And it's certainly not John Lone's very brave performance of said character that creates problems. Read more ›
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5.0 out of 5 stars Review May 16 2011
By apple
Format:VHS Tape
I was very interested in learning about the last emperor and so I bought this tape to add to my collection of educational videos. The movie gives you great insights about the Chinese people, those who are new to them, it further allowed me to research more on the topic and watch the archives on You Tube. I would highly recommend this movie especially to teachers who might want to introduce this topic as part of their Asian History class.
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3.0 out of 5 stars great film, awful dvd July 5 2004
By A Customer
I had the misfortune to buy this BEFORE I read the Amazon reviews and discovered that the DVD looked awful-a particular injustice for a film that won Best Picture. It's only 17 years old; there are films from the 30's that look great on DVD! I see though that in the U.K. they released a 2-disc version with commentary and both the original theatrical cut as well as the director's cut. I assume it's also restored and anamorphic and can only hope that we get an American version soon. The movie gets 5 stars, even at 219 minutes. The DVD gets 1 star, so that averages out to a generous 3.
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Most recent customer reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars Too long
Our guide in China told us that this filmw was partially filmed in the Forbidden City so we thought we'd have a look at it. Read more
Published 10 months ago by Heidi Van Alstyne
3.0 out of 5 stars buyer beware the aspect ratio is NOT the original 2.35:1 but rather...
Although this brand new xfer from criterion, has been approved by the original cinematographer, vittorio storaro, he has gone and re-framed (as well as zoomed) the entire film to... Read more
Published on Feb. 15 2008 by Paul Shikata
5.0 out of 5 stars Hiromi from London is brainwashed by the Japanese Govt
To actual believe that the Rape of Nanjing was overstated or did not occur is equivalent to the Germans saying the Holocaust never occured. Read more
Published on May 5 2005 by Peter
4.0 out of 5 stars Breathtakingly Beautiful, Decadent and Misconceived.
I revere every Bertolucci�fs work tremendously, and this lavish film is no exception.
I was completely mesmerised by the view of the Forbidden City, beautiful period costumes... Read more
Published on June 25 2004 by Shiragami Hiromi
2.0 out of 5 stars Good movie.... Awful DVD
Enough comments have been made on the movie so I'll just tell you my opinion on the DVD edition. It is one of the worst DVD transcription I have ever saw. Read more
Published on June 19 2004 by TomPouce25
1.0 out of 5 stars Horrible DVD Quality
Great moveie, horrible DVD video quality. The transcription to DVD is a disgrace.
Published on June 6 2004 by Jerold D. Kowalsky
5.0 out of 5 stars Redemptive
With 'The Last Emperor' Bernardo Bertolucci finally succeeded where he had failed with '1900'. In the previous film he tried too hard to document a period of Italian history... Read more
Published on April 1 2004 by R Jess
3.0 out of 5 stars Great ending
I bought the director's-cut dvd and I wish I hadn't. The movie was long around 3hrs and 20 mins, and the added scenes from the director's cut didn't make any difference in making... Read more
Published on March 12 2004
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