Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Caveat Emperor?

ImageThe Last Emperor (Criterion)
I’ve never warmed to Bernardo Bertolucci’s epic about the final Chinese emperor literally locked away in the Forbidden City, its nine Oscars notwithstanding. The picture’s historical scope and visual sweep are muted by a lackluster script that never coheres into anything resembling an insightful panorama like Lawrence of Arabia. However, thanks to Criterion, also included is Bertolucci’s longer TV cut, which fleshes out characters and incidents left dangling in the original. It figures that the director doesn’t agree with me, preferring the shorter original version.
Extras: Commentary; 53-minute documentary, The Italian Traveler; Bertolucci video shot in China; 52-minute doc, The Chinese Adventure of Bernardo Bertolucci; 47-minute doc with interviews of Storaro and other collaborators; 66-minute BBC doc; 30-minute interview with Bertolucci from 1989; new interview with David Byrne; new interview with Ian Buruma.

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