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The Last Emperor [Blu-ray]
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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

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.

Restored, high-definition digital transfer, supervised and approved by cinematographer Vittorio Storaro
DTS-HD Master Audio stereo surround soundtrack
Audio commentary by director Bernardo Bertolucci, producer Jeremy Thomas, screenwriter Mark Peploe, and composer-actor Ryuichi Sakamoto
The Italian Traveler: Bernardo Bertolucci, a 53-minute film by Fernand Mozskowicz, tracing the director s geographic influences, from Parma to China
Video images taken by Bertolucci in China
The Chinese Adventure of Bernardo Bertolucci, a 52-minute documentary that revisits the film s creation
A 47-minute documentary featuring Storaro, editor Gabriella Cristiana, costume designer James Acheson, and art director Gianni Silvestri
A 66-minute documentary exploring Bertolucci s creative process and the making of The Last Emperor
A 30-minute interview with Bertolucci from 1989
Interview with composer David Byrne
Interview with Ian Buruma examining the historical period of the film
Theatrical trailer
PLUS: A booklet featuring an essay by critic David Thomson

Customer Reviews:

  • Worth the multiple Academy Awards
    This movie is a definate favourite if one likes history and this movie depicts the life of the changing China. The director had a good idea of letting the audience to view the full length of the film. This is a movie that I would see again and again....more info
    If you somehow missed this one, do yourself a favor and make time available in your schedule for viewing this masterpiece from director Bernardo Bertolucci! Nine academy awards, including Best Picture [1987], only gives partial credit to this magnificently epic and absolutely unforgettable true story. It is the story of Pu Yi, who at the age of 3 comes to the Imperial Dragon Throne to become the Last Emperor of China. His whole life is spanned in this film, from his childhood, to his ultimate fate as an unskilled gardener in the streets of Bejing. Throughout this film we are treated to a cinematic feast for the senses, so rich in detail and imagery, you will be compelled to see it again as soon as possible (I saw it again the very next night!). You will have felt the full range of emotions from having experienced this movie, and few others in recent memory have mesmerized me so totally in an almost 3 hour (164 min) time span. Truly one of the greatest films of all time! Masterpiece!...more info
  • Criterion's Blu-ray of The Last Emperor dazzles the senses
    Criterion has done it again. Its blu-ray of The Last Emperor finally does justice to one of the few great films produced since the movie business went downhill in the 1980s, and is now giving us such sickening garbage as Hostel and Saw. The only caveat - Criterion may want to relook its packaging for Blu-ray discs; it's a big step down from the gorgeous package it delivered for the earlier DVD release of The Last Emperor - it has become so obvious just how mediocre and obsolete that the DVD format is now that we have Blu-ray. Here's hoping Criterion re-releases The Spy Who Came in From the Cold and The Magnificent Obsession on Blu-ray - and quickly!! ...more info
  • Not What You Think It Is
    The standard interpretation on "The Last Emperor" (and certainly the title suggests such an interpretation) is that it presents the end of aristocratic China to make way for the inexorable, modern movements of the 20th century, i.e. militarist Japan and communist China.

    I wonder.

    Unlike Pu Yi's 20th century counterparts, Pu Yi survives: the Japanese commander blows his brains out upon his country's defeat in WWII and the head of the communist detention center eventually becomes a despised outcast of his own system.

    What happens to Pu Yi?

    He becomes a gardener. However humble his destiny, he ends up doing what he wanted to do all along. And, despite his travails, his integrity and courage has remained intact: Pu Yi alone tries to defend the downfallen head of the detention center before the parade of pitiless Communist youth.

    Ultimately, the film appears to see the aristocratic way of life as more flexible and durable than its political challengers in the 20th century. Whatever the shortcomings of his royal upbringing, Pu Yi knew when to bend, like the plants and trees that he so lovingly tended.
    ...more info
  • 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 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....more info

  • Leading movie
    Example of movie of rare beauty thanks also to the evocative soundtrack.Criterion has not succeeded in eliminating the grain from some scenes, still this is a high rate of a BD....more info
  • Even More Ambitious Than THE GOOD EARTH
    THE LAST EMPEROR is a sweeping epic which focuses on the life of the Chinese boy emperor Pu Yi. The story begins before China becomes a republic in 1912. Pu Yi is used as a puppet by the new Chinese government and also by Japan after the Japanese invade Manchuria in 1931. The movie includes coverage of the years after World War II when he is imprisoned by the Communists before being released to work as an ordinary gardener. In some respects THE LAST EMPEROR reminds me of THE GOOD EARTH but it is even more ambitious than the earlier classic.

    Three different actors play the part of the emperor as a child. John Lone has the role of the adult Pu Yi. Joan Chen performs the part of Pu Yi's wife and Peter O'Toole has the role of his tutor. Director Bernardo Bertolucci is also known for his direction of LAST TANGO IN PARIS.

    THE LAST EMPEROR won nine Academy Awards for Best Picture, Director, Adapted Screenplay, Cinematography, Art Direction, Sound, Original Score, Editing and Costume Design. The main competition for Oscars in 1987 came from WALL STREET and MOONSTRUCK....more info

  • A Visual Gem
    I saw "The Last Emperor" a few years back and the movie has staid with me in many a positive way. I was truly amazed at the quality of the sets, the costumes and and the color throughout the movie. I had the feeling that we were seeing scenes shot in the Forbidden City itself. The tale is one that deserved telling because it gives us the story of China in the 20th Century.

    The prime focus of the story, obviously, is the last emporer of China, Pu Yi. We are given ample time to see the Old China through the many facets of his seclusive life in a setting of grandeur. Every aspect of every scene shown reinforces the imagery of a world of imperial power totally seperated from the hundreds of millions subjected to his rule. When rebellion reached the gates, it was time to take the best offer and leave. However, a grandiose lifestyle dating back to one's earliest memory is not replaced by a modest town house. We watched the dethroned emporer drift into an aimless life of spoiled affluence. During the Japanese invasion, the conquering army installs Pu Yi as a sort of puppet emporer to give a semblance of authority to their control. Ultimately, Pu Yi falls victim to the Communist regiem that fells no need to treat the fallen emporer any different form any othe Chinese individual in need of re-education. In a sense, Pu Yi comes to represent everything wrong with the Old China and everything wrong with the New China. All of this takes place with occassional shifts in time between past and present.

    The question arises as to what category this movie fits into; an historical drama or a morality play on how the mighty have fallen. In a way it is a combination of both. The visual experience of history in "The Last Emporer" is often breath-taking and the contemplation of the life of Pu Yi impacts us in a similar manner. Yet we may come away asking ourselves just what is the message of this nearly three-hour movie. I, for one, was not able to immediately answer that question. However, it seems that everything I have read or viewed about 20th Century China since has brought me back to "The Last Emporer". As I looked up this movie to write this review, I discovered that Bertolucci has released a "director's cut" edition of "The Last Emporer" that has added an other hour to the movie. This movie impressed me so much that i will just have to get that edition to see what I missed. What I got the first time around was simply outstanding. ...more info
  • Criterion should be ashamed to release this.
    For someone who grew up worshipping at the altar of Criterion, receiving this flimsy, chintzy digipack of one of history's most sumptuous films is a huge disappointment. It is quite simply of godawful design both functionally and aesthetically. The still image they chose for the cover graphic is both boring and pretentious. Beth Dorfsman...where are you?

    How the mighty have fallen. I remember the days when Criterion Laserdiscs were the ultimate home video indulgence. Their design was nearly always leagues above the competition, as was their commitment to providing outstanding liner notes, superior transfers -- the whole experience. If you would have shown me this pathetic little piece of cardboard back in 1990 I would have been utterly flabbergasted. Although Criterion did not release an LD of The Last Emperor, we all owned gorgeous Japanese imports with glossy black gatefold jackets, one of which displayed an entire diagram of the Forbidden City. I understand that the very small format of Blu-Ray provides some challenges, but Criterion has delivered outstanding presentations on recent releases such as "If..." "Jigoku" and many others.

    I also think it is a cynical, telling move that they did not include the Director's Cut on this release. It is quite simply so you will not flood the market with the Standard-Def version and they can do a shameless double-dip. And this is from the guys who are so concerned with you the viewer, right?

    Alas, the transfer also does not look particularly stellar. There is of course higher resolution but this soft image is certainly not a show-off title in your collection. Honestly, I watched the film on Laserdisc a couple of years ago and I enjoyed it every bit as much then if not more. This is a big slide downhill for a company which was once the touchstone of quality....more info
  • Great Movie
    This is one of the best movies that I have in my collection. The Blu Ray version is excellant. The colors are so vibrant and the sound is great. It is the story of the last emperor of China, Pu Yi. It is well worth the money and the time to watch....more info
  • Superb
    This is one of my all-time favorite movies. Even though I knew little about Chinese history when I first saw this, I was captivated by this story. Later on after I took a course in Chinese history, I had to see it again and I took even more from the movie. If you want to see a well-made, relevant and fascinating story, The Last Emperor will satisfy you....more info
  • Defective Criterion Blu-Ray Soundtrack
    Sadly, Criterion's Blu-Ray edition of THE LAST EMPEROR has a quality control problem severe enough to note here. The DTS surround track has been incorrectly mastered in monaural for the first couple of hours into the picture. Hopefully Criterion will correct the problem on subsequent prints, otherwise their standard dvd version is the one to own for now. ...more info
  • Last Emperor Has No Clothes.
    Too Bad... What a shabby dressing technically given to this 1987 first class world ranking film.

    If it was shot in 70 mm this means the resolution, sharpness and color should be as smashing
    as it was in the theater. AND production standards at the time long before 1987 would have separated
    the different audio sources especially the rich Sakamoto score hence the ability to use surround sound
    but IN REALITY the video is a bumpy ride; Grainy and color faded. No NOT with all that rich camera work
    possible. The audio is the original TWO CHANNEL stereo. This was a sweeper at the Oscars and International venture. Why was it slapped directly to Blu Ray From shoddy transfer? ... give up? Gotta be money.

    TOTALLY Disappointing and a Shame.
    Ray Blue...more info
  • Compare DVD to Blu-Ray
    I will not purchase the Blu-Ray version as I like the extended cut on DVD. It is sad when a company downgrades a movie from DVD to Blu-Ray. I was so pleased when The Kingdom of Heaven came out on Blu-Ray. I was longer and filled in all the missing parts missing in the original DVD. This is what Blu-Ray is to me. Better reproduction. More features. And if possible the addition of deleted or missing parts from the DVD. ...more info
  • Historic Epic....Cinematic History....
    This review refers to the Director's Cut Widecreen VHS edtion of "The Last Emperor"......

    To start with, I just want to give a nod to all the reviewers who have reviewed the DVD edition of this film. This film, being such a great piece of cinematic history, was on my list of upgrades from VHS to DVD. After reading the reviews I discovered I was better off to hold on to my VHS for a while, so I pulled it out to give it a view.I found that this VHS edition which is in widescreen and IS the Director's cut was more than satisfactory.(although not the crystal clear picture you might expect from a good quality DVD). Hopefully a new release of DVD is in the works.Please read those reviews if you are thinking about the DVD.

    "The Last Emperor" is a film of epic proportions, told in the form of flashbacks. Pu Yi(John Lone) a prisoner at the Foo Shoe Detention Center, brings us his life story through the form of a forced "confession". From the time he was three years old in 1908, and was chosen as the next emperor of China's "Forbidden City", to his death as a humble gardner in 1967, this unique story is one to behold.

    As a child he is pampered and groomed to be the "Lord of Ten Thousand Years". He can do no wrong, others are punished for any mischief he might get into.As a young adult he is sent a British tutor,Reginald Johnston(Peter O'Toole) who will become his mentor until well into adulthood. He is never allowed out of the Forbidden City, even when he learns of the political upheaval going on in the outside world. He marries kindered spirit Wang Jung(Joan Chen). Eventually they are forced out of the palace, and must adjust to life in the world, including the arrival of WWII. Knowing no other way than how he lived inside the walls of his kingdom, he becomes a "puppet" emperor for the Japaneese in the newly proclaimed region of "Manchukuo". Wang Jung has difficulty adjusting to their new life and falls into a deep depression and resorts to opium to relieve her fears.Then ten years in the detention camp where he still does not seem to be able to cope on his own.And finally his transformation from an absolute monarch to a humble gardner.

    The film is a magnificent piece of storytelling. Among the many international awards it recieved(too numerous to name), it was also honored with nine Academy Awards. Including Best Picture(1987), Best Director(Bernardo Bertolucci),Cinematopgraphy(Vitto Storaro) and Costume Design(James Acheson).The filming was actually done in "The Forbidden City", as well as locations in Bejing, Dalian and Manchuria.Bertolucci brings to us all the splendor and heartbreak of one man's historic journey through life.

    The film runs over three and a half hours(2 tapes) with the over one hour of new footage added in this director's cut. You will not want to miss one second of it. A true masterpiece...enjoy....Laurie...more info

  • a milestone in movie history
    I really enjoy watching the movie. The costumes and scenery was great. The flashback and other techniques used to produce this movie helped the viewer to better understand this enigmatic person Pui Yi and this period of China's history before Communist takeover. It is both educating and entertaining for the whole family. And should be included in all world history classes as a mandatory part of the teaching curriculum....more info
  • Amazing. A great picture for all times.
    This is one fantastic movie. The take on Pu Yi's life is captivating, and the portrayal of the deteriorating Chinese empire is a masterpiece. I really enjoyed the first part of the movie, as he learns his way through the imperial palace, with his 2 wives. The latter modern part sort of bored me off, but that's only because I find no interest in it. What's funny is how he disappeared in the end. Kind of creepy, but wonderful....more info
  • Criterion comes up short on "Emperor"
    I recently purchased this edition of "The Last Emperor" and was disappointed. Disappointed not in the brilliant visual presentation in Blu-ray but in the audio design!! On the jacket it says that it is Stereo surround but when I listen, it's basically monaural sound with all of it emanating from the center, not left or right or rear surrounds, but dead center. Also the aspect ratio is 2:00 and it's stated that it's from a 35mm source well that is a surprise!! Although the picture is an improvement over the grainyness of the tape, DVD and laser disc versions of this film--why couldn't this renowned company acquire a 70mm print since it's ratio is 2:00!? I almost feel like writing Criterion and addressing this problem. It doesn't bug me that this is the theatrical rather than the longer Director's cut that was released to Italian TV since I've already seen this version on a Japanese laser disc--it's the audio design that needs to be addressed!! So 4 stars for the visuals, but only 1 for the audio (the surround doesn't kick in until the last 45 minutes of this film!!). ...more info
  • Only good version of this great movie
    After seeing how horrible the quality of the dvd is (director's cut), I thought that perhaps the director's cut in the tape version would be better. It is not - colors washed out and all the other criticisms mentioned in the other reviews. My final attempt to get a good copy of this great movie was to purchase the orignal version on tape, put out by Nelson Entertainment. That tape plays well - colors are rich. If you want to own a watchable copy of this movie, get the orginal version on tape....more info
  • Excellent film, disappointing HD quality
    The film is an excellent story and well acted. I was disappointed in the quality of the high def. It did not have the crispness or realism I have seen in other Blu-ray DVDs or even over cable. Recording is not poor, just not what I consider good high def....more info
  • A true masterpiece
    This is one of the top fifteen best movies I have ever seen. I've read reviews saying that this movie is too slow, boring, and long. If anything, this movie is too short. The Last Emperor isn't as fierce or tearjerking as Saving Private Ryan nor does it have much action but the film has characters so powerful you feel like you know them. The characters were captured boldly by the actors. John Lone's performance as Pu-yi should have at least gotten him an oscar nomination. This is a film that is a true classic....more info