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.