If there’s one movie I like to re-watch and love to feel sad about…

it’s Bernardo Bertolucci’s The Last Emperor. Both Beautiful and heart-breaking, it depicts from start to finish the change in fortunes of a royal individual and where he ends up- not as a gardener, but as a commoner in a country that doesn’t allow him, nor anyone except Mao to be celebrated. It’s sad because the brilliance of imperial yellow royalty cloth is literally dimmed to grey uniforms, and figuratively. When one can portray the world from the eyes of an emperor, everyone can catch a glimpse of the high life. But when everyone is reduced to mediocrity, even the leader of them is not much better off. It’s the equivalent of Winston in 1984, having gone through a novel where some things are beautiful even though it’s largely dystopian, for example the time when he is outdoors in nature, with Julia and closing the picture with an ultimate spirit break with, “He Loved Big Brother.” Puyi’s ordinary status amongst tourists, in the Forbidden City, conveys that message most strongly. If only tourists wished to become the new eunuchs of his former Palace, things might look up again one day.


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