The Last Emperor (Widescreen Director's Cut)
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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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Top Customer Reviews
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 ›
Most recent customer reviews
It's no wonder it won so many Academy Awards ! A must see film for anyone with even the slightest interest in China's history.Published 8 months ago by Gregory C.
beautifully filmed (recreating the Chinese Royal Palace); interesting story and well actedPublished 11 months ago by Sandra
A great cinematographic achievement. Immersive. A holistic movie experience.Published 16 months ago by jay
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 morePublished 19 months ago by Ross Chapman
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 morePublished on June 7 2013 by Heidi Van Alstyne
NOT SURE IF IT WOULD HAVE BEEN A GOOD MOVIE TO SEE BEFORE WE LEFT FOR CHINA BUT IT BROUGHT BACK GREAT MEMORIES OF THE SITES WE SAW WHILE WE WERE THERE. Read morePublished on April 29 2013 by GAIL CATHERWOOD
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 morePublished on May 16 2011 by apple