My current Top 5

My current Top 5


Number 27: The Last Emperor (Best Picture Ranking)

The Last Emperor is another one of those long epics the Academy loves to honour and Oscar fans like to complain about. Well, since I am a fan of these long epics it is no surprise that the movie made it this high on my list. The Last Emperor tells the story of Puyi, a young boy who was Emperor of China but only became a puppet in the hands of history.

The Last Emperor is like a little treasure chest which contains a miraculous look into a different time and place. Director Bernardo Bertolucci achieved the almost impossible task to create a movie which takes long periods of time for quiet observations, for the presentation of a time gone long ago but never feels slow. The beauty of the images he can create is so overwhelming that The Last Emperor becomes a fascinating kaleidoscope of colour and music but also fate and human emotions. The arrival of the young boy in the Forbidden City is a thrilling moment which Bertolucci uses to introduce the viewer into an unknown place and the cameras are able to catch all these fascinating aspects without ever turning the movie into a ‘moving encyclopaedia’. Because underneath all these images lies a very gripping story of a man who may have been Emperor but spent his life as a prisoner of China’s traditions and the change of the world.

Apart from Peter O’Toole, The Last Emperor doesn’t feature any Hollywood stars but the cast is still very strong. The different actors who play Puyi all work very well to show the insecurity, the arrogance, the despair and the determination of a man who wants to create his own fate but ultimately fails. Peter O’Toole, obviously, shines as the English mentor.

The cast creates some almost mysterious characters that live in a world of its own, separated from the rest of the world by high walls. It’s a splendid and epic film that still keeps an almost claustrophobic atmosphere by the closed area of the Forbidden City. Still, almost every second of the movie provides so many wonderful moments that nothing in The Last Emperor ever feels limited. Scenes like the sexual games between Puyi and two women under their silk sheets while a fire is slowly starting to change the colour of the room, Puyi and his new bride kissing while hands out of nowhere begin to undress them, Russian parachutists filling the sky right to the last moment when Puyi, as an old man, tries to convince a little boy that once he was the Emperor of China are of a stunning beauty.

The Last Emperor is able to tell a story of people conquered by history with the means of a private character study and a grand epic at the same time.

1 comment:

Louis Morgan said...

I agree, I find this film, and this story fascinating. I have never understood the backlash it has received.