movie film review | chris tookey

Last Emperor

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  Last Emperor   Review
Tookey's Rating
6 /10
Average Rating
8.38 /10
John Lone (Pu Yi as a man), Joan Chen , Peter O'Toole
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Directed by: Bernardo Bertolucci
Written by: Mark Peploe, Bernardo Bertolucci

Released: 1987
Genre: DRAMA
Origin: Italy/ Hong Kong/ GB
Length: 227


The life of China's last Emperor , Pu Yi (John Lone).

Reviewed by Chris Tookey

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A gorgeous spectacle - but very tedious and much too long, even in its shorter version. One of the biggest problems is endemic to the material; the central character is passive and therefore unsympathetic, while the story of his life lacks any conventional dramatic structure. There is something comic about his passivity, yet the screenplay and direction never betrays enough sense of humour to explore this; it is too busy pointing out the constricting, imprisoning nature of privilege (a point made quite exquisitely within seconds of the start). The political stance of the film is, in fact, worryingly blinkered. It must be one of the few films ever to take a sympathetic view of Communist brainwashing; the Emperor's demotion to being a gardener is depicted as a terrific idea. Would Bertolucci like it if someone tried to "re-educate" him out of his beliefs? Other faults are the hurried narrative of the second half, and a tendency to ignore aspects of the real Emperor's personality (such as his sadistic and homosexual tendencies) which don't fit in with the film-makers' thesis. Vittorio Storaro's breathtaking cinematography well deserved its Academy Award - and the film also won Oscars for score, editing, art direction, costumes and sound. Despite its nine Oscars and a BAFTA Award for best Film, it failed to make much of an impression at the box office.

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