The Last Emperor, the historical film that traces the history of Pu Yi, the last emperor of China was released in 1987. Bernardo Bertolucci’s film has known a huge success and won 9 Oscars. Let’s take a look at some of the secrets of this film. The Last Emperor was at the Concorde yesterday at 4:15. 

Based on a true story.
The film is based on the autobiography of Emperor Pu Yi, which he wrote with his brother Pu Chieh and publisher Li Wenda, who will both became technical advisors on the film. A family affair!

A different project.
At first, the project was to be a 10-hour direct-to-video film in several episodes but Bertolucci decided to make it a 3h40 film. Probably the best decision!

China loves it!
The Last Emperor is the first feature film that got permission to film in the Forbidden City. The first Western film that ever did was an American NBC documentary in 1973. Part of the film was also shot in the mythical studios of Cinecittà in Rome. Ave Pu Yi!

Hungry actors!
Because of the director’s Italian origins, it was an Italian chef who was in charge of cooking for the whole team during the shooting of the film. 2,000 bottles of Italian mineral water, 225 kilos of Italian coffee, 950 litres of olive oil and 2,250 kilos of pasta were imported. How did they film after eating that much?

That’s a lot of wigs!
The head hairdresser of the film imported more than one kilo of hair to make the very elaborate wigs of the Imperial Court. For the coronation scene, he trained about 50 hairdressers for ten days so that they could put the wigs on the heads of the 200 extras in less than two hours. They must have lost their hair over it!

U Can’t Touch Them!
The Buddhist Lamas – worshipped in China –  who appear in the film couldn’t be touched by a woman. So an additional male crew was employed to dress them during filming. Gods are so complicated!

That’s a lot of people!
19,000 extras were needed to shoot the film. A lot of mouths to feed!

Some historical inconsistencies…
Although the film was based on a true story, some mistakes have been found. Even Bartolucci isn’t perfect.

-The Emperor sings “Am I Blue” in 1927, but the song wasn’t written until 1929.
-Yoshiko Kawashima was not the mistress of Masahiko Amakasu, as suggested in the film, but Hayao Tada’s, General Chief Advisor of Military Affairs to Pu Yi.
-Masahiko Amakasu did not commit suicide by gunshot but with poison.

Amélie Jacquet

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