The Emperor has been a prisoner in his own palace since the day that he was crowned, and has remained a prisoner since he abdicated. But now he's growing up, he may wonder why he's the only person in China who may not walk out of his own front door. I think the Emperor is the loneliest boy on Earth.
— Reginald Johnston
A 1987 film directed and co-written by Bernardo Bertolucci
, The Last Emperor
was the biopic of Pu-yi, The Last Emperor
of China. Its story, based on his autobiography, tells how Pu-yi ascended to the throne at the age of three. In his brief reign, he was confined to the Forbidden City, not knowing of the world of his people. When he is forced to abdicate at nine, the rest of Pu-yi's life is one of desolation and impoverishment. After serving as the ruler of a Japanese puppet government of China
during World War II
, he becomes a political prisoner of the Soviets and then of the Communist Chinese. When finally released in the 1960's, Pu-yi dies in obscurity...
This proved very successful at the Oscars, winning all nine of its nominations, including Best Picture, tying the record set by Gigi
nearly thirty years earlier.
This work features examples of:
- Artistic License – Biology: There is no way in hell a cricket could live that long, especially in a closed container without food or water.
- As You Know: The governor helpfully tells Pu Yi, and the audience, that the Japanese put a puppet state in Manchuria called Manchukuo and even tells the date, even though Pu Yi knew all that because he was there at the time.
- Break the Cutie
- Break the Haughty: Numerous examples, but the whole movie is basically about Pu Yi's journey from emperor to gardener. Pu Yi's prison experience results in Character Development.
- A Child Shall Lead Them: Not for long.
- Convenient Miscarriage: The Japanese officials' explanation for the death of Wan Rong's love child. They poison the baby girl to death as soon as she's born.
- Deleted Scene: The theatrical release had a few, including the answer to the mouse question. It's not a pretty scene.
- Depraved Bisexual: Eastern Jewel sleeps with everyone, including Empress Wan Rong, in order to gain power. She's finally Driven to Suicide when the Japanese surrender.
- Driven to Suicide: Pu Yi's mother. And much later, the Japanese officer that pushed Pu Yi around.
- Eunuchs Are Evil
- Gilded Cage: The Forbidden City.
- Hot Consort: Two of them, Empress Wang Rong and First Concubine Wen Xiu. It doesn't go well, in the end.
- How We Got Here: The film starts as Pu-yi returns to China as a prisoner and it works its way backwards.
- Imperial Japan: pushes Pu Yi around.
- Important Haircut: Pu Yi gets rid of his Manchu Queue.
- Kicked Upstairs: What the movie doesn't say is that, after getting deposed, Pu-yi is put on the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, a multi-party "advisory body" to the Chinese Government.
- The Last Title: The title.
- Limited Special Collector's Ultimate Edition: The Criterion Collection.
- Lonely Rich Kid: Pu-yi.
- Oscar Bait
- Perfectly Arranged Marriage: Pu-Yi wanted a modern wife who could follow the new dances and was educated outside China. He found her in Wang Rong. But it didn't last.
- Polyamory: Pu Yi marries Wan Rong and has Wen Xiu as his First Concubine, and things don't go very well.
- Pretty in Mink: A few furs, like those worn by the consorts.
- Puppet King: Pu-yi as the emperor of Manchukuo.
- Puppet State: Manchukuo.
- Royal "We": Pu Yi when emperor of Manchukuo.
- Scenery Porn: AND HOLY EFFIN' HOW! It was filmed in the Forbidden City itself.
- Second Sino-Japanese War
- Star-Making Role: John Lone, and Joan Chen in particular, who's now an award-winning director as well.
- Starts with a Suicide: Attempted by Pu-Yi in the beginning to kick off the story.
- Take Over the World: The Japanese make clear their goal of conquering Korea, China, Indochina and India.
- What Happened to the Mouse?: Trope Namer. The title character violently throws his beloved pet mouse offscreen. There's no sound of the mouse hitting anything, but it's never seen again in the theatrical cut, leaving its fate ambiguous.
- White Man's Burden: Peter O'Toole as wise tutor Reginald Johnston.
- Would Hurt a Child: Bad times for Wan Rong and her love child.