The Last Emperor: The Director’s Cut

Extended edition of Bertolucci's lavish 1987 epic

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OPENS MARCH 12, CERT 15, 218 MINS

The Last Emperor tells the story of Pu Yi, installed as Lord Of Ten Thousand Years in 1908 at age three, only for Imperial China to become a republic a few years later. His journey takes him from a cosseted adolescence, walled up in the Forbidden City, to a playboy existence in Tientsin, reinstatement as puppet emperor of Manchuria, then post-war incarceration and eventual rehabilitation as a gardener in Red China.

The story is largely told in colours?the fabulous maroons, golds and yellows of his childhood, the blue-washed near-monochrome of his detention. It’s rich in irony and poignancy. All the same, Pu Yi is too weak, self-centred and uncomprehending a character to fully engage. The attempts to intensify our sympathy for his fate are burdensome. Nearly four hours is, frankly, a bloody long time to wait for the guy to come to his moral senses. The relatively minimalist dialogue doesn’t help, either. Finally, you’re only grateful there’s no sequel.

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