The power and captivation that coincides with the presentation of "The Last Emperor" is as strong today as it was in 1987. Not only is the film a brilliant study of China's progression into a communist nation, but its a necessary and relevant commentary on modernization and the progression of time. Vittorio Storaro's flawless visuals give the film most of its power, but its also backed up by a wonderfully crafted soundtrack and amazing performances by John Lone and of course Peter O'Toole.
The film follows the true story of Aisin-Gioro Pu Yi, who was actually the last emperor of China before the entire nation was enveloped by communism. From a young age, the Emperor is given everything that his heart desires, and has thousands of people follow his every command. The one thing that he doesn't experience is the outside world, which is going through major shifts that seem completely foreign to him. The only source of education that he begins to experience is through his tutor, played by Peter O'Toole. The depiction of this kind of ignorance is so fascinating, and conveyed perfectly on the screen. The masterful performances by everyone excel the content of the picture as well. More than anything, the execution of the film's story provides a wonderful documentation of the human condition. The feeling of loss that the emperor experiences even from a young age sticks with him through his adult years.
Vittorio Storaro provides some of the best cinematography ever presented on film. The visuals are absolutely flawless. The way that colors and large groups of people are caught on camera is rather astounding. The film gives the feeling and vibrancy of a painting, brushing its own strokes as it goes along. Storaro's visuals are the most important aspect of this production.
The musical composition of this film was actually done by three people. Ryuichi Sakamoto, David Byrne, and Cong Su provide a wonderfully rich soundtrack that truly gives you goosebumps every time you hear it. The musicality is as radiant as the characters themselves. Truly brilliant.
From the moment the film begins, Bernardo Bertolucci's "The Last Emperor" shows signs of greatness. The film itself is landmark achievement in cinematography, but every other sense of the production is wonderful as well. The near-perfect acting, well done script, and fantastic soundtrack propel the film beyond any notion of linearity and into its own category of brilliance. Not only is the film a timeless effort, but its story and political commentary is one that still offers some relevance in today's world. A timeless picture, and a timeless classic.