The Last Emperor

Production year: 1987

Drama PG-13   Running time: 2:45 

IMDB rating:   7.8     Aspect: Wide;  Languages: English;  Subtitles: None;  Audio: DD Surr.

Among the finest Western-made movies about the East, Bernardo Bertolucci's epic traces the emergence of modern China through the life of one man. After taking on Italian history in The Conformist and 1900, the director was well placed to tackle the story of Pu Yi (played by John Lone as an adult). The narrative proceeds along two tracks: the emperor's post-Forbidden City existence and his cloistered upbringing. Educated by Scotland's Reginald Johnston (Peter O'Toole, in a role slated for Sean Connery), the monarch develops into a sophisticated, if powerless figure. After taking an empress (Joan Chen) and playing into the hands of the Japanese, Pu Yi ends up a menial member of the People's Republic. This edition honors Bertolucci's vision, starting with restored transfers of the final cut and the 218-minute broadcast edition, the former overseen by Oscar-winning cinematographer Vittorio Storaro. Recorded in 2003 and 2007, the audio commentary features Bertolucci and fellow award recipients Jeremy Thomas, Mark Peploe, and actor/composer Ryuichi Sakamoto (co-composer David Byrne appears in a separate interview). Among the revelations: the film was originally planned as a five-part series, Peploe adapted the screenplay from over 50 books, and the filmmaker admits he now finds some scenes embarrassing.


Audio commentary
Trailers/TV spots

Special features

The Italian Traveler: Bernardo Bertolucci,
Audio commentary featuring director Bernardo Bertolucci, producer Jeremy Thomas, screenwriter Mark Peploe, and composer-actor Ryuichi Sakamoto
Video images taken by Bertolucci while on preproduction in China
The Chinese Adventure of Bernardo Bertolucci
47-minute documentary featuring Storaro, editor Gabriella Cristiani, costume designer James Acheson, and art director Gianni Silvestri
A 66-minute BBC documentary exploring Bertolucci's creative process and the making of The Last Emperor
A 30-minute interview with Bertolucci from 1989
An interview from 2008 with composer David Byrne
A new interview with Ian Buruma examining the historical period of the film
Booklet featuring an essay by critic David Thomson
The Last Emperor