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The Last Emperor (The Criterion Collection) [Blu-ray]

The Last Emperor (The Criterion Collection) [Blu-ray]

The Last Emperor (The Criterion Collection) [Blu-ray]

Bernardo Bertolucci s The Last Emperor won nine Academy Awards, unexpectedly sweeping every category in which it was nominated quite a feat for a challenging, multilayered epic directed by an Italian and starring an international cast. Yet the power and scope of the film was, and remains, undeniable the life of Emperor Pu Yi, who took the throne at age three, in 1908, before witnessing decades of cultural and political upheaval, within and without the walls of the Forbidden City. Recreating Chin

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2 comments on “The Last Emperor (The Criterion Collection) [Blu-ray]

  1. 172 of 182 people found the following review helpful
    4.0 out of 5 stars
    Blu-ray edition is not a direct carry over from the deluxe 4 DVD edition, January 5, 2009
    R. Svendsen (Flagstaff, Arizona) –

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    This review is from: The Last Emperor (The Criterion Collection) [Blu-ray] (Blu-ray)

    When I was informed that the Blu-ray of the deluxe 4 disc Criterion edition would be missing the extended cut of 218 minutes, I sent an e-mail to Criterion to confirm this information. I have included my e-mail and the response I received from Jon Mulvany at Criterion. I hope this helps in your decision if you are planning to upgrade to the Blu-ray.

    Dear Jon,
    I have long been a fan of your company and the fine treatment it gives to movies. I originally purchased one of my all time favorite movies, The Last Emperor earlier this year when it was given the deluxe 4 disc treatment, I was thrilled with all of the extras that were included. I was most impressed that both versions of the movie were included for me to chose from. When it was announced that it was coming to Blu-ray, I sold my copy and was waiting to upgrade. I was! I have learned that the 165 min. version is the only one that will be included on the Blu-ray and not the 218 min (my preferred version) cut. WHY, WHY WHY? I am sad to say, that if this is indeed really true, I will not be upgrading to the Blu-ray version since this would in fact be considered a step down from the standard DVD edition. Why give us a great product initially, but then short change us on the Blu-ray upgrade, How sad!!!

    Michael Ruiz

    Jon’s reply is as follows:

    Hi Michael,

    When we made the special edition dvd of The Last Emperor, we pulled out the stops. The film won nine Academy Awards – from best picture and director to production design and editing. On top of that, it was the first international film of this scale produced in China, and that story in and of itself was extraordinary. In short, all aspects of the film merited attention and discussion. In addition to the director’s cut of the film — the original theatrical version — we gave an entire disc to the longer Italian television version of the film for comparison. We also included an elaborate bound book and slipcase to hold the four disc set. Although the set was expensive, at $59.95, it was as close to definitive as we could make it, and we felt it offered good value.

    When it came time to make the Blu-ray edition, we felt strongly that a single-disc edition containing all the added content of the four-disc version would offer our customers the best version of the film, the best value, and the best user experience. Having addressed the myth that the television version is the director’s cut with our DVD box set, we didn’t feel that including it as an extra Blu-ray disc was worth the added cost to the customer. Similarly, because the Blu-ray market place is still much smaller than the market for DVDs, the cost per copy of printing Blu-ray sized perfect-bound books would have driven the price of our edition up to a level we considered prohibitively expensive for consumers.

    We also know that many or our customers already own the current dvd set. For them we are offering an upgrade program that will allow them to have the director’s preferred version of the film on Blu-ray, while keeping the rest of the original package. Just send in your disc 1 and we’ll send you the blu-ray disc for a $20 (+ $5 shipping and handling) replacement fee. If you are determined to have all the content of the DVD edition as well as the Blu-ray disc content, you could always go that route — buy the DVD set and trade in disc 1 for a Blu-ray. In the end I think the cost would still be less than we would have had to charge to make an all Blu-ray version of our original edition.

    I hope this helps you understand our thinking. Thanks, as always, for your support of Criterion.


    Jon Mulvaney

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  2. 109 of 115 people found the following review helpful
    4.0 out of 5 stars
    Magnificent Criterion Set… Mouthwatering Extras… Some Caveats… Notably Ugly Cropping, March 25, 2008

    I won’t go into the movie itself. It is already well known. It swept the Oscars winning all 9 for which it was nominated, including Best Picture and Best Director. A first for an independent foreign film. It is an historical epic about a culture which until then was little known in the West. It tells the story of China’s Last Emperor, a weak and ineffectual man who came to the throne hailed as The Son of Heaven and The Lord of 10,000 Years. His misfortune was to be born at the twilight of Imperial Rule in China. Enthroned as a God, he is cast out by Chinese Republicans, used as a puppet by the invading Japanese, humiliated by the Communists and then “re-educated” to finally become a “useful” member of society – a common gardener. It is the story of one man’s tragedy and of an ancient civilisation’s painful march into the modern era. A film not to be missed.

    This is a truly magnificent set. Criterion at its best. Spread over 4 discs, it includes both versions of the film, fully restored and remastered, plus an additional 6 hours worth of Extras; about everything you could possibly want to know about the film, the director or the central character, Pu Yi.

    The roaring controversy however is over the decision to crop the film from its original 2.35:1 theatrical aspect ratio down to a narrower 2:1. Vittorio Storaro who was responsible for this has defended his action and Criterion has taken the line that they follow the wishes of the creator. However after having seen the new cropped versions, my preference is still for the older 2.35:1 widescreen.

    The newer versions by and large look fine and you won’t notice the cropping unless you do a 1 to 1 comparison. However in more than a few scenes, the new visual composition looks askew – awkward and ugly. Scenes that were originally perfectly framed now appear inadvertently cropped – arms, ears, sometimes whole figures are cut in half – Eg. during the enthronement of little Pu Yi, the court official who issues the proclamation is standing toward the left edge of the screen but is otherwise supposed to be fully visible. In the new 2:1 crop for the TV version, he is cut into half. In the new 2:1 crop for the Theatrical version, the panning is more to the left and only his arm is missing. This is just one of many instances which infuriate viewers. Criterion should remember that its customers are avid cinephiles who scrutinise films in minutest detail and expect faithfulness to the original release. I for one do not take kindly to a creator coming back to redo his work with the result that it looks uglier than before. Especially when I know that he has an ulterior motive for the revision.

    For those who are still unaware, Vittorio Storaro pioneered a new film format in 1998 called Univisium (aka Univision) which just so happens to have a 2:1 aspect ratio. It is intended as a compromise format between the 2.35:1 theatrical aspect ratio and the new 1.78:1 widescreen TV aspect ratio. Storaro wants his new 2:1 aspect ratio to be the new universal aspect ratio for all films. So far only he has used it in shooting his newer films. No one else is interested so he has gone about reformatting (cropping) all the older films he has shot into this new 2:1 Univisium format. He has already mutilated Francis Ford Coppola’s “Apocalypse Now” to the chagrin of film fans worldwide. Now he has come round to mangling Bernado Bertolucci’s “The Last Emperor”.

    His various statements in support of this cropping are illogical, contradictory and at points ludicrous. The question is, when did he first consciously compose his pictures for the 2:1 format? Criterion cites Storaro’s claim that “The Last Emperor was the first film he shot specifically for 2.0 framing”. Storaro on an earlier occasion had already made the claim that he first conceived of shooting for 2.0 during the filming of “Apocalypse Now” way back in 1978. He said this in support of his cropping the war classic down from its original 2.35:1 to 2:1 for its Redux Edition and subsequent video transfer. These two statements are patently contradictory and cannot both be correct.

    Both “Last Emperor” and “Apocalypse Now” were shot in Technovision which is in 2.35:1. The only format using 2:1 aspect ratio at that time was the old SuperScope. Why choose 2.35:1 Technovision, when (as he now insists) he wanted to shoot in a 2:1 aspect all along? Criterion also trots out the red herring that the producers had initially hoped to release it on 70mm. But that means composing for 2.2:1 not an odd ratio like 2:1. Actually I personally believe the films were indeed composed for 2.2:1 and they would look just right if reframed in that ratio. The only reason for cropping it down to 2:1 is to accommodate Storaro’s new Univisium format. For all the Storaro apologists out there (and there are many), the Oscars he won for “Last Emperor” and “Apocalypse Now” were for the films in their original…

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