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The Last Emperor Gets a Criterion Collection DVD Release on February 26th


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It's time to get your Criterion on with this Bernardo Bertolucci film.


According to The Hollywood Reporter, The Last Emperor is coming out in a new Criterion Collection release on February 26, 2008.


The 1987 Best Picture Oscar winner will be released in a new four-disc set. The release will include the "television version" which was a 218-minute affair shown in four separate episodes. Director Bernardo Bertolucci and editor Gabriella Cristiani went back and shaved it down to the 165-minute theatrical version afterwards. This new set will include both versions amongst other extras. Pricing details weren't available at this time. Bertolucci himself had this to say.


"I would be very pleased to present the theatrical version for The Last Emperor, but I'm perplexed on presenting the (so-called) director's cut because I wouldn't know what else to say about a version that in my opinion is not much different from the other one, just a little bit more boring, as very often the director's cut can be. That's my sincere feeling."


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, "protected" from the outside world. Fascinated by the worldliness of his Scottish tutor (Peter O'Toole), Pu Yi plots an escape from his cocoon by means of marriage. He selects Manchu descendant Wan Jung (Joan Chen), who likewise is anxious to experience the 20th century rather than be locked into the past by tradition. Played as an adult by John Lone, Pu Yi puts into effect several social reforms, and also clears the palace of the corrupt eunuchs who've been shielding him from life. In 1924, an invading warlord expels the denizens of the Forbidden City, allowing Pu Yi to "westernize" himself by embracing popular music and the latest dances as a guest of the Japanese Concession in Tientsin. Six years later, his power all but gone, Pu Yi escapes to Manchuria, where he unwittingly becomes a political pawn for the now-militant Japanese government. Humiliating his faithful wife, Pu Yi falls into bad romantic company, carrying on affairs with a variety of parasitic females. During World War II, the Japanese force Pu Yi to sign a series of documents which endorse their despotic military activities. At war's end, the emperor is taken prisoner by the Russians; while incarcerated, he is forced to fend for himself without servants at his beck and call for the first time. He is finally released in 1959 and displayed publicly as proof of the efficacy of Communist re-education. We last see him in 1967, the year of his death; now employed by the State as a gardener, Pu Yi makes one last visit to the Forbidden City...as a tourist. Bernardo Bertolucci's first film after a six-year self-imposed exile, The Last Emperor was released in two separate versions: the 160-minute theatrical release, and a 4-hour TV miniseries. Lensed on location, the film won nine Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Director


Special Features

- Audio commentary by Bernardo Bertolucci, producer Jeremy Thomas, composer Ryuichi Sakamoto and screenwriter Mark Peploe

- Video interviews with composers Sakamoto and David Byrne

- "Postcards From China" featurette consisting of video images taken by Bertolucci during preproduction

- "Making of" documentary

- "The Late Show: Face to Face," a 30-minute BBC interview with Bertolucci from 1989

- "The Italian Traveler," a documentary from Fernand Mozskowicz that explores Bertolucci's journey from Parma to China.

- A booklet featuring essays by David Thomson and excerpts from script supervisor Fabien Gerard's production journals.

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