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THE LAST EMPEROR: DIRECTOR'S CUT
UK: Optimum Releasing
Cast: John Lone, Joan Chen, Peter O'Toole, Ying Ruocheng, Victor Wong, Dennis Dun, Ryuichi Sakamoto, Maggie Han, Ric Young, Wu Jun Mei (Vivian Wu), Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa, Jade Go, Fumihiko Ikeda, Richard Vuu, Tsou Tijger, Tao Wu, Guang Fan, Henry Kyi, Alvin Riley, Chen Kai Ge
Director: Bernardo Bertolucci
Countries: France / Italy / UK
UK: 218 mins
UK Certificate: 15 contains moderate violence and sex
UK Release Date: 12 March 2004
On November 13, 1908, a three year-old boy was made heir to China's dragon throne at the autocratic whim of the Empress Dowager Tzu Hsui, a formidable lady. The following day the reigning Emperor Kuang Hsui died and 24 hours later Tzu Hsui succumbed to dysentery at the age of 73. Thus on December 2, 1908 in the Hall of Supreme Harmony in Peking's Forbidden City, the child Pu Yi of the Asian-Gioro clan became tenth Qing Emperor. He was the ruler of nearly half the total population of the world.
Pi Yi's reign was short and revolution bought in the first Republic of the Sun Yat Sen. On February 12, 1912 Pu Yi's abdication was announced by the Empress Dowager Lung Yu. The new Republic drew up the Articles of "Favourable Treatment of the Great Qing Emperor after his Abdication" and an eight point agreement allowed Pu Yi to stay in the Forbidden City, to keep his titles, his servants and 1500 eunuchs, gave him 4m taels a year ($4m), promised to protect his property and the tombs of his ancestors.
For the next 12 years Pu Yi lived in the Forbidden City a prisoner behind its walls. In 1919 Sir Reginald Johnston (R.J.), a graduate of Edinburgh University, became the first foreigner to instruct him and broadened his horizons. On December 1 1922 he married Wan Jung, a Manchu aristocrat he had chosen by pointing at a photograph but it was not a success. He wanted to leave the Forbidden City and despite enormous complications succeeded in doing so when on 5 November 1924 troops of the warlord Feng Yu Hsiang hammered on the gates of the Forbidden City. He was handed a revised form of the Articles of Favourable Treatment in which his title of Emperor was abolished and given an hour to quit the Imperial Palace.
Pu Yi moved first to his father's house and said he wanted to be an ordinary citizen but secretly swearing to use his freedom "to realise the ambition of regaining his lost throne". Under the guise of visiting a house he wished to rent, Pu Yi slipped into the foreigner's concession, an area where the Chinese had no power or jurisdiction and waited while R.J. tried to find help from one of the legations. The Japanese Minister was out, as was the Dutch and when R.J. consulted the British Legation they discouraged any interference in Chinese internal politics and agreed that Pu Yi should seek assistance from the Japanese. While waiting for the Japanese Minister to return from lunch, Colonel Takemoto, Commander of the Japanese Legation guard, invited Pu Yi to stay at the Japanese Legation and so the ex-Emperor began his long association that ultimately led to his imprisonment as a war criminal and collaborator and in 1967 after an eventful life he died of cancer.