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The Last Emperor (Widescreen Director's Cut)

John Lone , Joan Chen , Bernardo Bertolucci    NR (Not Rated)   DVD
3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (111 customer reviews)
Price: CDN$ 46.58
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Everything that was good about the 163-minute theatrical release of Bernardo Bertolucci's The Last Emperor in 1987 is even better in this new 218-minute director's cut. By contrast, much that was peculiarly distant and lifeless the first time around isn't really better or worse in this edition. Conclusion: the net gains are considerable if you invest time to appreciate Bertolucci's full feeling for the odd story of Pu Yi, China's final monarch. You remember the saga: taken from his mother at the age of three, Pu Yi is brought into the enclosed walls of the Forbidden City to replace the real emperor. There he becomes a pampered prisoner and hollow symbol of an older monarchy that has since given way to a ruthless, 20th century republic. With his pining loyalists beheaded or kept at bay by armed soldiers outside the City's walls, Pu Yi is tutored by an English gentleman (Peter O'Toole) and wed to a kindred spirit (Joan Chen). Eventually cast from his gated paradise, Pu Yi (wonderfully portrayed in adulthood by John Lone) becomes, by turns, a playboy, a dupe to the Japanese, and a victim of China's cultural reforms and re-education programs. This longer cut largely top-loads the film with greater reason to feel compassion for the emperor, with his often wordless sense-adventure in the mysteries that could only be known to one little boy plunged into indecipherable alien decorum, robbed of self-determination and common sense by his infinite privilege. Added scenes (including some in the political rehabilitation camp where Pu Yi is held for a decade) fill out not so much added facts as density of experience. This improved The Last Emperor is richer in soul and a pronounced sense of Bertolucci actually directing this film in the most personal and profound sense. --Tom Keogh

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
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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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars great blu-ray feature July 21 2009
By Cheryl TOP 100 REVIEWER
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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5.0 out of 5 stars Redemptive April 1 2004
By R Jess
Format:VHS Tape
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 through 2-dimensional characters placed in didactic situations. In this film he moved closer to the story of the central character and as a result we get a greater insight into the political upheavals of China at the time and how they effected those in power.
The story itself isn't entirely objective however as the Chinese government had final say over the script and made sure to correct any 'historical inaccuracies' they deemed damaging to China's image. Like most westerners I saw the individual fate of Pu Yi as essentially tragic, a once powerful if somewhat naive figure, brought to his knees by political machinations beyond his control. However, this is not how the story is seen in China or even by Bertolucci himself (who I believe is still a member of the Italian Communist Party). For them the emperor acts as a symbol of the collective and his re-education is seen as an act of redemption. The first step on his road to becoming a fully-fledged adult shorn of the childish priviliges and illusions he has lived with all his life. In one of the final scenes of the film, Pu Yi comes across his old prison governor being publicly humiliated by the youth of the Cultural Revolution. For the first time in his life he seems to empatise with the individual plight of a fellow human being and this spurs him to futile, yet ultimately redeeming action.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Great ending March 12 2004
By A Customer
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 the movie any better. I thought the movie moved quite slowly. In the beginning of the movie I thought it was obscene how the emperor Pu Yi's wet nurse kept showing her breast, I thought that it was quite indecent, especially when she breast fed him when he was already 7 or 8 years old. I guess my reaction was due to culture shock. After watching this movie I learned that the emperor Pu Yi really had quite a sad life, he was king but that title didn't bring him much happiness. He was used by the Japanese, he couldn't trust his servants, and in the end he was treated like a commoner. In the end it was so heart breaking when he had lost it all (all his wealth, respect, loved ones, etc.) I truly do feel for him. Even though I thought the whole move was slow and boring, the sad ending made the whole story and the experiences in his life meaningful. The ending is what ties it all together and make you look at your life in a whole different light. After having watched this movie I learn to appreciate the things that I have in my life and the people whom I share my life with. I have a greater appreciation of these things because I've learned from the movie that people and material possessions may not always last and be with you forever, so don't take anything or anyone for granted. This is a story of riches to rags. John Lone is a great actor in the movie, his acting was so genuine and believable, you'd think he really was the emperor of China. Overall, this was a boring movie but it brought great meaning to the words "Life" and "Destiny". If you think your life sucks right now, watch this movie and you'll appreciate what God has given you.
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Bertolucci's best
A great cinematographic achievement. Immersive. A holistic movie experience.
Published 24 days ago by jay
4.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining
I had this movie on VHS but watching it on Blu-ray was almost like never having seen it before. I really appreciate the background information that is included in this release. Read more
Published 3 months ago by Ross Chapman
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 16 months ago by Heidi Van Alstyne
5.0 out of 5 stars REMEMBERING MY CHINA TRIP
Published 18 months ago by GAIL CATHERWOOD
5.0 out of 5 stars Like Bertolucci's earlier "1900", a film full of great achievement and...
First off, Criterion does their usual impeccable job with both the transfer
and the extras on this new disc. Read more
Published on July 12 2012 by K. Gordon
5.0 out of 5 stars Review
I was very interested in learning about the last emperor and so I bought this tape to add to my collection of educational videos. Read more
Published on May 16 2011 by apple
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
3.0 out of 5 stars great film, awful dvd
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. Read more
Published on July 5 2004
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
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