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The film depicts the life of Pu Yi (John Lone), the last emperor of China, from his ascent to the throne as a small boy to his imprisonment and political rehabilitation by the Communist Party of China.
It is a hesitant, conservative approach that yields great elegance and a rhythm that carries the viewer along. Yet the film is haunted by a sense of opportunities not taken, of an artist deliberately reining in his artistry.
At last a real, thought-provoking, eyeball-popping movie epic.
January 07, 2014
Philadelphia Daily News
Even though its ambitions sometimes get the better of it, the film succeeds often enough to make us grateful that, even in our MTV age, a director like Bertolucci is still willing to get on the mat and grapple with Personality and History.
If there is such a thing as voluptuous detachment, Bertolucci and John Lone have found it. Lone's achievement in his absorbing account of Pu Yi is to place him at a distance and yet make his plight totally involving.
There's probably a truly great movie in the story of Pu Yi, but The Last Emperor is not that movie. Still, what director Bernardo Bertolucci (Last Tango in Paris) has accomplished here is both ambitious and impressive.