Bernardo Bertolucci's The Last Emperor won nine Oscars out of nine nominations, sweeping every category except acting (stars John Lone, Peter O'Toole and Joan Chen weren't nominated). It was chosen as one of the year's ten best films by Cahiers du Cinema, Jonathan Rosenbaum, Roger Ebert, Richard Corliss, and even the National Board of Review. Gene Siskel voted it the year's best film, as did Judy Stone of the San Francisco Chronicle. Filmmaker Samuel Fuller chose it as one of his ten favorite films of all time. In 1998, it received a major theatrical re-release, supervised by cinematographer Vittorio Storaro, with nearly an hour's worth of footage edited back into the film, bringing the total from 160 to 219 minutes. Yet, it has somehow fallen into the list of hard-to-find films. For years, it has only been available on VHS or import DVDs. Now the Criterion Collection has come along and corrected this oversight by delivering perhaps 2008's most spectacular DVD release so far. (Blu-Ray be damned!)

Criterion's four-disc release includes both cuts, as well as two more discs full of extras. (Many are from 1987 and some were created more recently; the bonus is a series of "video postcards" shot by Bertolucci in China while preparing for the film.) Personally, I like getting to decide which version to watch, rather than having someone else choose the definitive version for me. The 160-minute version is the one that garnered all that praise, but the longer version -- here called the "television version" -- is great, too. The extra scenes don't particularly work to "drive" the movie forward, but they give a richer understanding of Pu Yi and the emptiness of his life.

categories Features, DVDs, Cinematical