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Zinovy Khokhlov
Zinovy Khokhlov

The Last Emperor [UPD]



42 years earlier, in 1908, a toddler Puyi is summoned to the Forbidden City by the dying Empress Dowager Cixi. After telling him that the previous emperor had died earlier that day, Cixi tells Puyi that he is to be the next emperor. After his coronation, Puyi, frightened by his new surroundings, repeatedly expresses his wish to go home, but is denied. Despite having scores of palace eunuchs and maids to wait on him, his only real friend is his wet nurse, Ar Mo.




The Last Emperor


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The boy was 3 when he first sat on the Dragon Throne as emperor of China, and 7 when he abdicated. He had barely reached what in the West is considered the age of reason, and already events beyond his control had shaped his life forever. Bernardo Bertolucci's "The Last Emperor" tells the story of this child, named Pu Yi, in an epic that uses the life of one man as a mirror that reflects China's passage from feudalism through revolution to its current state of relatively peaceful transition.


This is a strange epic because it is about an entirely passive character. We are accustomed to epics about heroes who act on their society - "Lawrence of Arabia," "Gandhi" - but Pu Yi was born into a world that allowed him no initiative. The ironic joke was that he was emperor of nothing, for there was no power to go with his title, and throughout the movie he is seen as a pawn and victim, acted upon, exploited for the purposes of others, valued for what he wasn't rather than for what he was.


The movie reveals his powerlessness almost at once: Scenes of his childhood in the Forbidden City are intercut with scenes from later in his life, when the Chinese communists had taken power, and he was seized and held in a re-education camp, where a party official spent a decade talking him through a personal transition from emperor to gardener - which was Pu Yi's last, and perhaps happiest, occupation.


But the process in the communist jail actually starts many years earlier, in one of the most poignant scenes in the film, when young Pu Yi is given a bicycle and excitedly pedals it around the Forbidden City until he reaches its gates to the outer world, and is stopped by his own guards. He is an emperor who cannot do the one thing any other little boy in China could do, which is to go out of his own house.


There is a scene early in the film when Pu Yi, seated on the Dragon Throne, attended by his minders and servants, grows restless, as small boys will do. He leaps impatiently from his seat and runs toward the door of the throne room, where at first a vast, billowing drapery (a yellow one - the color reserved only for the emperor) obstructs the view. Then the curtain is blown aside, and we see an incredible sight: thousands of the emperor's minions, all of them traditionally costumed eunuchs, lined up in geometric precision as far as the eye can see, all of them kowtowing to the boy.


There aren't a lot of action scenes in "The Last Emperor," and little enough intrigue. (Even the Japanese spy isn't subtle: "I'm a spy, and I don't care who knows it," she tells the empress on their first meeting.) As in "Gandhi," great historical changes take place during "The Last Emperor," but, unlike Gandhi, the emperor has no influence on them. His life is a sad irony, his end is a bittersweet elegy. But it is precisely because so little "happens" in this epic that its vast and expensive production schedule is important. When we see those thousands of servants bowing to a little boy, for example, the image is effective precisely because the kowtowing means nothing to the boy, and the lives of the servants have been dedicated to no useful purpose.


Everything involving the life of Pu Yi was a waste. Everything except one thing: the notion that a single human life could have infinite value. In its own way, the Dragon Throne argued that, making an emperor into a god in order to ennoble his subjects. And in its own way, the Chinese revolution argued the same thing, by making him into a gardener.


The man known as Henry Pu Yi led one of the strangest lives of the 20th century. The last of the Manchu emperors, he succeeded to the throne as a boy of two in 1908. Three years later a revolution turned the country into a republic but, although his abdication was arranged, he was allowed to keep his title and live in mock-imperial state, attended by courtiers and eunuchs, served meals of 40 courses and given playmates who were punished if he misbehaved himself. The little boy, indeed, did not realise that anything had changed, but as his biographer Edward Behr remarked, his palace was the first of his many prisons.


China fell into the hands of rival warlords and for a few days in 1917 Pu Yi was reinstated as emperor and then removed again. At 16 he was given four photographs of girls he had never met to choose from and provided with an imperial wife and an imperial concubine. He apparently took the name Henry out of admiration for Henry VIII of England. Aged 19 in 1924, with China in turmoil, he escaped to the international settlement at Tientsin to take shelter in the welcoming arms of the Japanese. They found a use for him and, when they took control of Manchuria in 1931, they proclaimed Pu Yi as Emperor of Manchukuo.


Part of its worth is accounted for by the fact that it is one of only three similar models known to exist. But equally significant is its provenance. It originally belonged to Aisin-Gioro Puyi, the last emperor of China.


Phillips in Association with Bacs & Russo is unveiling a special exhibition showcasing several artifacts, including a Patek Philippe Reference 96 Quantieme Lune wristwatch that once belonged to Aisin-Giro Puyi, the last Emperor of the Qing Dynasty (1906-67). The watch is expected to sell for over $1 million, according to Phillips.


Born in 1906, Aisin-Gioro Puyi was the last Emperor of the Qing dynasty, ascending to the throne as the Xuantong Emperor just before his third birthday by decree of the Empress Dowager Cixi, one of the most powerful women in Chinese history.


Finally booted out by the new government, Pu Yi, by now in his late 20s, moves with his two wives to Tientsin and lives like a Western playboy, wearing tuxedos at elegant dances while gradually coming under the influence of the Japanese, who eventually install him as puppet emperor of Manchuria, home of his ancestors.


Many vivid images emerge, including little Pu Yi making eunuchs and a camel chase him through a courtyard, his attempted escape over the roof, and the adult emperor and his wives, dressed just right for a Southampton summer afternoon, playing tennis on a specially built court.


A dramatic history of Pu Yi, the last of the Emperors of China, from his lofty birth and brief reign in the Forbidden City, the object of worship by half a billion people; through his abdication, his decline and dissolute lifestyle; his exploitation by the invading Japanese, and finally to his obscure existence as just another peasant worker in the People's Republic.


The Last Emperor (1987) is a sprawling, historical epic directed by Bernardo Bertolucci. This is a chronicle of literally the last emperor of China before it fell to Maoism. The Last Emperor is a nine Oscar winning powerful and emotial drama/biopic. It chronicles the rise of Emperor Pu Yi from Manchuria (North East China), his education, his foibles, and his abdication. Eventually, he retreats to Japan and they use him as a puppet. There is much more to this film and I do not want to add spoilers.


Tells the epic biographical tale of the last Emperor (duh) of China Puyi; his life from birth to death, most of it as semi-flashbacks while kept in custody by the Red Army as a war criminal who must confess his wrongdoings.


As the disenchanted (adult) emperor who believes in his God-given right to rule, Lone exudes arrogance and vulnerability as he is manipulated by the politicians, then forced to confront his own responsibilities and shortfalls. Chen's Empress is more tragic; initially charming and supportive, she declines into opium addiction as she loses faith and influence when her husband gets involved with the Japanese.


After standing up for his former prison warden against Red Guards during the Cultural Revolution, Puyi purchases an entrance ticket and returns to the Forbidden City. The film closes as he wanders before his old throne not as an emperor, but content as a tourist.


Throughout his life, Puyi attempts to find meaning in the very places he loses all joy and autonomy: the pomp, ceremony, and regalia of imperial life. This is apparent when Puyi crowns himself emperor in Manchuria, where he attempts to recreate the enthronement he was too young to understand.


``The Last Emperor'' is a most cosmopolitan movie. Made by an English production company, it was directed by one of Italy's most controversial filmmakers, Bernardo Bertolucci, and photographed almost entirely in China with help from the Chinese government. The history of the production dates back to 1984, a time when the Italian film industry was not thriving. On the lookout for a fresh and stimulating project, Bertolucci approached the Chinese government with a couple of ideas for major films. China agreed to support him in filming the life of Pu Yi, who became the nation's last emperor, in 1908, under very ironic circumstances.


According to Columbia Pictures, the film's American distributor, the on-location shooting in China included eight weeks of photography in the Forbidden City, which was for 500 years the traditional home of Chinese emperors.


Indeed, it's billed as the first Western movie about modern China to be made with the Chinese government's full cooperation. It probably won't be the last, though. The impressive Shanghai episodes of Steven Spielberg's ``Empire of the Sun'' were also made in China, and it's claiming to be the first major Hollywood movie with scenes photographed there.


Pu Yi spends much of the roaring '20s as an irresponsible playboy. Then he moves back to Manchuria, where he was born, and makes a comeback as emperor with Japanese help. After World War II he lands in a Russian prison, then in a Chinese prison, where he's ``reeducated.'' He ends up as an ordinary gardener in China, quietly living out his days while the Cultural Revolution of Mao Tse-tung explodes around him. Occasionally he still dreams of the time when a mighty nation almost called him its lord. 041b061a72


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