"He was the Lord of Ten Thousand Years, the absolute monarch of China. He was born to rule a world of ancient tradition. Nothing prepared him for our world of change."
The Last Emperor is one of those films that won a number of Oscars (nine in total), including Best Picture, but is a film that few people watched when it was originally released in theatres. The story is about the last emperor of imperial China and follows the life of the man selected for this throne.
It definitely has a great deal of historical significance, although I doubt it is entirely accurate for entertainment purposes. However, you cannot question the wonderful script, the cinematography, and overall costume and set design. These were done with such care and detail, the time period for which Director Bernardo Bertolucci was attempting to capture was easily conveyed to his audience.
The Last Emperor was one of those films that did a complete clean sweep of every category for which it was nominated. Some may question why leading actor Jone Lone (Emperor Pu Yi's) or even supporting actor Peter O'Toole (R.J. Johnston) were not recognized for this film. Lone does a tremendous job as the adult Emperor Pu Yi and his acting is compelling throughout the film. O'Toole, best known for his role in Lawrence of Arabia, was snubbed throughout his stellar career to this day and has yet to win an Oscar for acting on his own (recently recognized for lifetime achievement).
Although The Last Emperor is definitely a must see amongst Best Picture winners from 1980-2008, it is quite long and it is a period, historical piece that has some slow parts to it. The set design and filming of this movie provide breathtaking panoramic shots, however, for the everyday movie goer, this movie might seem boring at times.
As a recognition of its overall achievement, The Last Emperor is one of those films that was included in the famed Criterion Collection. Many international films belong to this elite group of movies. The collection recognizes the best films from many countries - selecting the key classical and contemporary films of each nation. Its a wonderful collection to view and own - unfortunately, the films are in limited release and are quite expensive. My mother has found a nice cache of films in the public library system - probably the best way to view these without shelling out a large sum of money. Either way, the entire collection is worth checking out for the more advanced movie fan - especially if you are interested in seeing classics from other countries.