Hooray! I finally got a chance/excuse to watch "The Last Emperor." Now I know what all the buzz was about; it was a tremendously good movie. Konnel was teasing me because I was taking notes throughout, though to be truthful, I really suck at history so most of the notes were for my own memory than for anything else.
I guess the first thing to say is that though the movie starts out in a tragically cute way (I mean, a 3 year old emperor? How cute is that?!), it was difficult to watch an entire lifetime of sorrows in three hours. Granted, this wasn't "Schindler's List" by any means possible, but the feeling of claustrophobia and loss was quite a bit to deal with. But, that was the point of the movie.
I can understand why the film won so many Oscars, but was disappointing to find that the actor who played the Emperor at age 8 (Tsou Tijger) did not get any awards since I felt that his acting was so multi-layered for a child his age. It goes without saying that the film had beautiful cinematography, exquisite costumes, and wonderful set design. On a side note, I got to see an exhibit about the Forbidden City a few years back, so it was kind of neat to see how everything fit together in my memory and in the film.
Since I am a self-avowed history idiot, a lot of the plot either went over my head or I just did not understand what was happening or why. Peter O'Toole did a wonderful job (which is to be expected). I just did not understand who made the decision or why the decision was made for a Western tutor to be appointed to the Emperor. Now I want to read the book that the warden was reading ("Twilight in the Forbidden City") so I'll understand what was going on both in history and in the movie.
I really did like the way in which the movie was set up, almost like a set of parentheses or brackets. *Spoiler Alert* In the beginning of the film, everything that Pu Yi loves is taken away from him (physically taken away, taken away through death, or through his own destruction/decisions), and as the film winds to an end, the same happens with his Royal Consort, his wife, and his sense of control of his country and self. The scene in which he throws the mouse against the gates of the Forbidden City made tears come to my eyes (again, why this kid did not get best actor, I'll never know). There was also the irony that he was able to escape from the Forbidden City, then becoming an exile who could not leave his palace, becoming the ruler of Manchukuo under total Japanese control, and finally his life within a prison.
There was a lot of symbolism that I did not understand, so if someone could explain to me why the strung-out Empress was eating flowers, I'd be grateful. I think that I figured out the symbolism of the mirrors since they came at the end of the movie and mainly were around the Empress -- a representation of the reflection of her former self or an hollowness/emptiness that she ultimately became. Just thoughts, there.
I will say that I hated how the movie ended. I mean, really. I know that a lot of history was left out of the film, but geez, *spoiler alert* just having some woman saying, "...and he died in 1967." ARG! How? Why? Illness? Old age? Suicide? Murder? The rest of the film was so intriguing that to have it end so abruptly was really annoying. It pissed me off, actually.
So, I give it a 4 out of 5 stars. Highly recommended, but be prepared to get pissed at the ending.
Thanks for the recommendation!