Thanks to Carol, we viewed our film this week in her lovely suite. She could accommodate nine of us comfortably. This was just as well, as it turned out.
The Last Emperor (1987) is an epic film. In Cineplexes, it ran for 160 minutes = 2 hours 40 minutes. The version my Film Group saw ran for 218 minutes = 3 hours 7 minutes. Apparently this version was specially created for TV to run over two nights. We sat through it without anyone stirring, or even suggesting it might be too long. Afterwards, it was suggested that an intermission would have been nice. Obviously, everyone loved it and were fascinated enough to not realize that so much time had passed. It certainly was an epic!
A British-Italian biographical drama, the film is about the life of Puyi (1906-1967), the last Emperor of China. The screenplay was written by Mark Peploe and Bernardo Bertolucci, and the film was directed by Bertolucci, the well-known Italian director. John Lone was excellent as Puyi, the last Emperor, as were the rest of the cast in their roles.
I was particularly interested in Peter O’Toole and his character as the Scottish diplomat who became the Emperor’s tutor and advisor, Sir Reginal Fleming Johnson, KSMG, CBE (1874-1938). Johnson was also the last British Administrator of Weihaiwei. Peter O’Toole played the part well. I liked the scene in which he wore the Highland Regalia. The Johnson clan doesn’t seem to have a red dress tartan, and O’Toole wore one of the green versions. The green hunting tartans are usually for day wear, and the red dress tartan is for formal occasions. I think it best if I don’t carry that train of thought any further.
This is a magnificent film. The historical background to the life of the last Emperor is, of course, the turbulent history of China over that period. It’s amazing that so much was condensed into a film only just under three hours long. What a life Puyi experienced! Born in 1906, as a child, being ruined utterly and allowed to have anything he wanted, including having his eunuchs flogged at his whim. On to being used as a pawn by the Japanese when they invaded China. In 1934, the Japanese crowned him puppet Emperor of Manchukuo, until the Red Army captured him at the end of the Second World War. During the Communist re-education program he finally admitted that he had committed war crimes by collaborating with the Japanese. Considered rehabillitated by the government of the People’s Republic of China, he spent the rest of his life as a gardener, dying in 1967. It certainly made for a fascinating film.
At the 60th Academy Awards, the film won all nine Oscars for which it was nominated, including Best Picture and Best Director.
On a budget of $23.8 million USD, the film brought in a box office of $44 million USD,