Film and Food

Movies reviews with matching food – eat, watch, enjoy

Best Picture – The Last Emperor (1987)

Starring  John Lone, Joan Chen & Peter O’Toole

Rating 9/10

China: the end of a very, very long era. This is a fascinating, intriguing film, shot perfectly and, at  times, a little strangely.

Director Bernardo Bertolucci has created a masterpiece here. He interweaves the ‘present’ and the ‘past’ beautifully which keeps your beady little eyes glued to that screen. It is as if you are slowly being fed a meal of uniqueness. And at the end, you feel satisfied… full.

The film begins with ex-Emperor Puyi (Lone) all grown up. In the ‘present’ he has been arrested by the People’s Republic of China as a traitor to the nation. As he tries to harm himself, he flashes back to when he was a tiny kid, when he became Emperor.

Let me just say, CUTEST kid ever (except for mine of course!). Full credit to Richard Vuu who played 3 year old Puyi; cute and talented to boot. The flashbacks follow the evolution of Puyi from cute little button P to teenage betrothed P to adult P. Throughout this he is being tutored by Englishman Reginald Johnston (O’Toole) who helps him see that the fancy pants palace he is in is actually a prison.

Eventually Puyi is kicked out of his elaborate jail by China’s big wig and his only welcome comes from the Japanese. Dangerous times. First there’s singing, fine wine, food and comfortable lodging but then comes the blackmail as he returns to his native land of Manchuria. Drugs, sex, lies, betrayal, death. Seedy times for poor old Puyi. Even here, he is not free, this time controlled by the Japanese.

Eventually his story catches up to the other one in the land of Communist China, where he is in yet another type of prison… a jail. All is ok… for a while. But I will let you find out that for yourself.

This is a beautifully crafted movie. The performances are perfect. It feels and looks so real. There were some strange and confronting moments… this is no Disney film that’s for sure and the ending is a little abrupt but overall this is the definition of a Best Picture winner. So, please, check it out.

The Last Emperor Trivia:

  • Budget – $23.8 Million
  • The film had to be shot in China in six months without a break. The Chinese government was so much behind this film that Queen Elizabeth II was denied a visit to the Forbidden City because it was being used for this movie.
  • This was the first feature film ever to be allowed to film in the Forbidden City.
  • Puyi’s younger brother, his prison governor and his manservant were all advisors on the film
  • Guess how many extras were needed to shoot this? 19,000 over the whole film! Whacko.
  • Producer Jeremy Thomas, alone, raised the $25 million needed for the film.
  • The scenes of Puyi’s mansion (1934-45) were filmed in the actual place the real Puyi lived at that time.

How can you beat this film? How about a little bit of Tom Cruise and Dustin Hoffman? Our next film is Rain Man. Stay tuned!


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