Last Emperor [Blu-ray]
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Bernardo Bertolucci's Oscar-winning epic about the last imperial ruler of China. In 1908 the three-year-old Pu Yi is made Lord of Ten Thousand Years, but is soon forced to abdicate. He is, however, kept on as a symbolic figure and educated by an English tutor (Peter O'Toole) until he is thrown out by the new government. Now in his late twenties, Pu Yi takes his two wives to Tientsin and lives the life of a playboy.
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 The Last Emperor focuses more on visuals than characterisation anyway. Filmed in the Forbidden City, it is spectacularly beautiful, filling the screen with saturated colours and exquisite detail. It won nine Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Director. --Rochelle O'Gorman --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top Customer Reviews
Production values aside, the only flaw in this film, is the deadpan performance of John Lone. He still represents the Western archetype of Asians in the Charlie Chan and Fu Manchu style of bad acting with equally bad accented English. The movie could have been better if it had been using the authentic Mandarin language (Pu Tong Hua).
Overall, this edition is a marked improvement from its Region 1 cousin, being the presence of an audio commentary and a documentary. The Region 1 DVD that I owned was a general disappointment.
Some drawbacks: The audio on the director's commentary is out of sync, though it doesn't really matter as the voices of the Bertolucci, Jeremy Thomas and Ryuichi Sakomoto dominate.
The "Director's Cut" on DVD 2 is no such thing. It is an extended version which was cobbled together for TV. There were reasons why that extra hour of footage didn't make it into the cinema version..... Now Bertolucci approving it being issued on DVD has led to marketing monkeys making the bogus claim that it's a director's cut. The picture quality of this extended version is lamentable, being soft, dark and extremely grainy. It would look bad under any circumstances but releasing it alongside this pristine theatrical version is inviting criticism.
This is definitely a UK PAL release, not a Europe PAL release; there are no foreign language subtitles. In fact there aren't even English subtitles for the hard of hearing.
Despite the lame second DVD and the lack of subtitles I've rated it 5 stars because the picture quality of the theatrical version in this set is as excellent as such a film deserves, which is what matters most in my opinion, and the double DVD edition didn't cost any more than a budget single disc.
After a bit of research I decided to go with our own UK release. Why? Because all 'official' reviews state that it's the best of what's available. Some people mention the region-locked US Criterion version - well apparently it's the same transfer as the UK release.
So, onto the blu-ray disc.
Picture - I thought the picture was brilliant most of the time; but there are a few shots where the natural grain is more distracting. Never could this be considered a poor transfer though. As for the aspect ratio: I'm aware that this film was originally shot in 2.35:1 ratio and that the Director of Photography has since changed his mind and it's now 2.00:1. Personally, this was not a problem for me. Also, I'm quite happy to not complain about the decisions of the film makers. It's their film after all.
Sound/Subtitles - one of the few disappointments with this disc. Originally in a simple 2.0 Stereo; the blu-ray upgrades to a PCM 2.0 track (which apparently sound almost identical to the Criterion DTS HD-Master 2.0 track). The PCM track does its job adequately; I'm just so used to a minimum of 5.1 that I noticed the difference. I use a Yamaha soundbar for viewing and I can hear the difference. Especially on a film with such a masterpiece of a score. There are no subtitles at all. None.
Extras - Commentary. Featurettes. Trailer. AND....the Director's Cut of the film!!! This is both the DC and the 'Italian TV Version' of the film and runs for an extra 45 minutes. This version is exclusive to the UK blu-ray to my knowledge.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Fabulous film - having been to China it was great to visualise the Forbidden City and surroundings in all its past splendour. Read morePublished 29 days ago by Designer Dolly
Breathtakingly sumptuous bluray transfer by Criterion (region A), head and shoulders above any other releases in my collection that will now be up for sale. Read morePublished 1 month ago by N. M. Fletcher
Long film but totally mesmerising. Probably more so as I had visited China in March 2016 & had learnt much of the history covered with n the film.Published 2 months ago by sandysoo
Great film. Beautiful atmospheric cimemtography. Excellent performances. All in all, a stunning piece of work.Published 2 months ago by W K Shannon
A Brilliant film, long but really worth watching with it's mixture of film and theatre elements. I was fixated by the history, luxury and nativity all contained in this filmPublished 3 months ago by Annie Cat