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Precious and cold
I thought I hadn't seen The Last Emperor, so I just sat through the whole thing, then realized that I saw it a while ago. I know it won a bunch of awards and everyone loved it, but I found it precious and cold, as in *too* precious and cold. Yeah, I know that we "should" like it, but it seemed like the movie was a series of story boards, like every scene was carefully planned like a painting. Maybe that's what they wanted: to create a movie that's like Chinese panels. Or maybe they kept it safe because the Chinese government back in the 80's gave them permission to film it in the Forbidden City, so they couldn't cross any lines by suggesting anything negative or even emotional.
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I think there is lot to be said for trying to create a great painting out of every shot. The Italians were very good at it, or I guess Visconti was great at it, and this movie keeps the tradition. TLE is all about the relationship of aesthetics and fascism, continuing the themes of The Conformist. It might not be historically accurate as it relates to Asia, and I've never read anything on that, but that's what the movie is after. And that project makes it stiff, but very much on purpose, and very successfully in the end.
I think they covered the main points of Puyi's life. I had no idea it had anything to do with "The Conformist" or was about the relationship between aesthetics and fascism--sounds quite abstract. I'm still not crazy about the movie.
Unrelated: I wonder how Visconti's family became so rich and noble.
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