The Last Emperor
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The Last Emperor is the true story of Aisin-Gioro Pu Yi, the last ruler of the Chinese Ching Dynasty. Told in flashback, the film covers the years 1908 to 1967. We first see the three-year-old Pu Yi being installed in the Forbidden City by ruthless, dying dowager Empress Tzu-Hsui (Lisa Lu). Though he'd prefer to lark about like other boys, the infant emperor is cossetted and cajoled into accepting the responsibilities and privileges of his office. In 1912, the young emperor (Tijer Tsou) forced to abdicate when China is declared a republic, is a prisoner in his own palace,… More
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Rotten Tomatoes Score: 91%

Critic Reviews from Rotten Tomatoes

"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."
‑ Dave Kehr, Chicago Tribune
"As coolly lavish an epic as we may ever see."
‑ Sheila Benson, Los Angeles Times
"One of the most visually arresting pictures of recent years."
‑ David Parkinson, Radio Times
"At last a real, thought-provoking, eyeball-popping movie epic."
‑ Peter Travers, People Magazine
"[A] massive, magnificent historical biopic."
‑ Jonathan Crocker, Total Film
"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."
‑ Desmond Ryan, Philadelphia Inquirer
"The expanse of time is saturated with an expanse of visual beauty that feels absolutely right for the story."
‑ Lisa Schwarzbaum, Entertainment Weekly
"The story is colorful and sometimes unpredictable, so it's rarely boring. But it's rarely much deeper than the emperor's favorite rice bowl."
‑ David Sterritt, Christian Science Monitor
"The man, who only has been superficially shown, gets lost for a while in the sweep of events. Yet in spite of these reservations, this lush film merits attention."
‑ Candice Russell, South Florida Sun-Sentinel
"This tension between the permissible and the forbidden, between exterior and interior, between the illusion of freedom and captivity, between light and darkness becomes the organizing principle of Bertolucci's spectacular epic."
‑ Dayana Stetco, Metro Times (Detroit, MI)
"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."
‑ Jay Boyar, Orlando Sentinel
"It works astonishingly well."
‑ Richard Schickel, TIME Magazine
"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."
‑ Ben Yagoda, Philadelphia Daily News
"Bernardo Bertolucci takes this outline of Pu Yi's tumultuous life and transforms it into an absurdist journey in The Last Emperor, a masterpiece about the loneliness and hubris of believing that we can control our own destiny."
‑ Jack Patrick Rodgers, PopMatters
"That rare breed of film that is both pure Oscar bait and a thoroughly compelling work."
‑ Christopher Long, Movie Metropolis
More reviews for The Last Emperor on Rotten Tomatoes

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