This film earned Vittorio Storaro his third Oscar. Of the other eight it won, Bernardo Bertolucci took one for his directing and shared another for the screenplay. The film's protagonist is Puyi, the last emperor of China, whose book, From Emperor to Citizen, served as the basis for the film. Puyi's life took several unexpected turns. He ascended to the throne at the age of three, but was not left with much time to use his power: he was still a child when the civil revolution forced him to abdicate. In 1931, he became the puppet monarch of the newly formed country of Manchuoko. In reality, he was under house arrest, with the Japanese governing in his place. Later on, Puyi was captured by the Soviets. He returned to China in 1950, only to be imprisoned. Released in 1959, he became a mouthpiece for the Communist government, spending his last years working in the repair shop of a botanical garden. This is the poignant story of a man who never had a real chance to take control of his own life.
Alternating between astonishingly contrasting visual worlds, the film is remarkable in part because it encompasses six decades - achieving this through more than mere changes in costumes, props and scenery. The various eras and locations, such as the Forbidden City, the re-education camp and Maoism, demanded appropriate visual models from Storaro. The colours, tones, and compositions mutate, making the final product a monumental work where the gold of traditional Chinese culture appears alongside the grey of imprisonment, and the sickening red of the Communist dictatorship.
Presented by: Müpa Budapest
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