Paper dragons, two wives and days of commanding troops to do your bidding, such sweet days ruined by war and progression. From bright colours to grey concrete walls. What a sad progression. And the Emperor is no longer doing the commanding.
The Last Emperor follows events based on Emperor Pu Yi’s life, from birth to death. It typically switches between the past and present (film present, this stuff ain’t happening today. Come on!) to paint a stark contrast in atmosphere. Soft hues of the past switch to the cold grey bitterness of the prison Pu Yi has ended up in, and it keeps interest going as you await for the Emperor to fall into this grim situation. It starts with China turning into a Republic, and things keep getting worse from there. It’s a well crafted tale, with gorgeous locations and a real sense of witnessing the Emperor’s life. Even if you feel you’ve lived it as the film runs just short of being four hours long.
There are a lot of scenes which could be culled to make a leaner history lesson, but this is the full self-indulgent tale that features everything, even the Emperor using a toilet. No privacy here! It manages to draw you in, even when some of the voice acting pulls you back out when they make the most minor scenes a comic delight. Thankfully there are more scenes with the awesome British teacher on a bicycle than stodgy acting.
The Last Emperor may take you on the full course tour of Pu Yi’s life, but it’s one which captures an era of prosperity and paper dragons before things turned sour. It’s unfortunate to be leading in a time of great change.