Although I had to break this up into two instalments, simply due to the lengthy runtime, The Last Emperor was an engrossing and fantastic film to become entranced by. Bernardo Bertolucci takes the right amount of time to show the different phases in the life of Pu Yi, the last Emperor of China, from innocent child to arrogant teenager and so on, eventually becoming nothing more than a powerless token figure.
The biographical portraits of Pu Yi and his tutor Johnston have been considerably softened, and there are times when the decision to shoot in English rather than Mandarin seems regrettable. Otherwise, it's a sumptuous film with rather more historical intelligence and complexity than its big budget and ton of Oscars might lead you to expect.
This film has the potential to be 4 or 5 stars but no film that commits the unforgivable sin of scripting a Chinese historic epic in English deserves more than 2. The whole film goes from the epic to the ridiculous every time the dialogue starts. What an absolute shame because the cinematography, set and costume designs are well, epic. This film needs some skilful dubbing in Mandarin to fix it.
The Last Emperor is brilliant on the merit of its visuals alone; but it didn't necessarily need to be a three-hour film. There were many moments that felt bloated and unnecessary. Other than that Bertolucci tells a fascinating tale of the life of emperor Pu Yi. Joan Chen is amazing.