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S E A R C H    D V D B e a v e r

(aka "The Last Emperor" or "Le Dernier empereur" or "L'Ultimo imperatore")

directed by Bernardo Bertolucci
Hong Kong 1987

Bernardo Bertolucci's The Last Emperor won nine Academy Awards, unexpectedly sweeping every category in which it was nominated—quite a feat for a challenging, multilayered epic directed by an Italian and starring an international cast. Yet the power and scope of the film was, and remains, undeniable—the life of Emperor Pu Yi, who took the throne at age three, in 1908, before witnessing decades of cultural and political upheaval, within and without the walls of the Forbidden City. Recreating Ching dynasty China with astonishing detail and unparalleled craftsmanship by cinematographer Vittorio Storaro and production designer Ferdinando Scarfiotti, The Last Emperor is also an intimate character study of one man reconciling personal responsibility and political legacy.

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Posters

Theatrical Release: October 15th, 1987 - France

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Comparison:

Criterion (Theatrical) - Region 'A' - Blu-ray vs. Criterion (Theatrical and Television) - Region 1 - NTSC vs. Artisan - Region 1 - NTSC vs. Gaumont / CTS - Region 2 - PAL vs. Optimum - Region 'B' - Blu-ray

Big thanks to Kevin Tran for the Artisan and Gaumont screen captures and Leonard Norwitz for the Optimum Blu-ray grabs!

(Criterion - Region 'A'  Blu-ray LEFT vs. Criterion - Region 1 - NTSC 2nd vs. Artisan - Region 1 - NTSC 3rd vs. G.C.T.H.V. - Region 2 - PAL - 4th vs. Optimum - Region 'B' Blu-ray RIGHT

DVD Box Covers

 

  

 

  

 

    

  

Distribution

Criterion Collection - Spine # 422

Region 'A' - Blu-ray

Criterion Collection - Spine # 422

Region 1  - NTSC

Artisan Home Entertainment

Region 1  - NTSC

Gaumont/Columbia Tri-Star Home Video Region 2 - PAL

Optimum Home Entertainment

Region 'B' - Blu-ray

Runtime 2:43:05.9553:38:24 (TV) + 2:42:50 (Theatrical)3:38:172:36:10 (shorter version - 4% PAL speedup) 2:42:51.720 + 3:29:39.480 (4% PAL speedup)
Video

Disc Size: 49,312,059,998 bytes

Feature Size: 32,534,206,464 bytes

Average Bitrate: 26.6 Mbps

Dual-layered Blu-ray MPEG-4 AVC

2.0:1 aspect ratio for both

16X9 enhanced
Average Bitrate: 4.7 + 6.14 mb/s
NTSC 704x480 29.97 f/s

2.29:1 cropped and zoomed
Average Bitrate: 4.58 mb/s
NTSC 704x480 29.97 f/s

2.35:1 Original Aspect Ratio

16X9 enhanced
Average Bitrate: 6.60
PAL 720x576 25.00 f/s

Disc Size: 43,933,768,343 bytes

Theatrical Feature Size: 29,563,723,776 bytes

Average Bitrate: 19.00 Mbps

TV Feature Size: 8,188,624,896 bytes

Average Bitrate: 4.69 Mbps

Dual-layered Blu-ray MPEG-4 AVC Video 1080P + MPEG 2 (TV)

NOTE: The Vertical axis represents the bits transferred per second. The Horizontal is the time in minutes.

Bitrate:

Criterion

Blu-ray

 

Bitrate:

Criterion Television (Disc 2)

 

Bitrate:

Criterion Theatrical (Disc 1)

 

Bitrate:

Artisan

 

Bitrate:

 

Gaumont/CTS

 

Bitrate:

 

Optimum Theatrical Blu-ray

 

Bitrate:

 

Optimum TV MPEG-2

 

AudioDTS-HD Master Audio English 1908 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 1908 kbps / 24-bit (DTS Core: 2.0 / 48 kHz / 1536 kbps / 24-bit)

Commentary: Dolby Digital Audio English 224 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 224 kbps / Dolby Surround

English (Dolby Digital 2.0) English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround)

English and Dubbed French, 5.1 or Dolby Digital

LPCM Audio English 2304 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 2304 kbps / 24-bit
LPCM Audio English 1536 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 1536 kbps / 16-bit
SubtitlesEnglish and noneEnglish and noneNoneFrench and noneEnglish and none
FeaturesRelease Information:
Studio: Criterion

 

Aspect Ratio - 2.0:1
Disc Size: 49,312,059,998 bytes

Feature Size: 32,534,206,464 bytes

Average Bitrate: 26.6 Mbps

Dual-layered Blu-ray MPEG-4 AVC

Edition Details:
• Audio commentary featuring director Bernardo Bertolucci, producer Jeremy Thomas, screenwriter Mark Peploe, and composer-actor Ryuichi Sakamoto
• The Italian Traveler: Bernardo Bertolucci, a 53:03 film by Fernand Moszkowicz tracing the director's geographic influences, from Parma to China (SD)
•  Video images taken by Bertolucci while on preproduction in China
•  The Chinese Adventure of Bernardo Bertolucci, a 50:53 documentary that revisits the film's making
•  Making the Last Emperor - a new, 47-minute documentary featuring Storaro, editor Gabriella Cristiana, costume designer James Acheson, and art director Gianni Silvestri
• A 1:06:03 BBC documentary exploring Bertolucci's creative process and the making of The Last Emperor (SD)
• A 30:35 interview with Bertolucci from 1989
• A new interview with composer David Byrne  (25:05 - SD)
• A 2008 interview with Ian Buruma examining the historical period of the film
• Theatrical trailer
•  16-page liner notes booklet featuring an essay by David Thomson

Blu-ray Release Date: January 6th, 2009
Custom cardboard slipcase (with booklet)

Chapters 30

Release Information:
Studio: Criterion

Aspect Ratio:
Widescreen anamorphic - 2.00:1

Edition Details:
Disc 1
• Audio commentary featuring director Bernardo Bertolucci, producer Jeremy Thomas, screenwriter Mark Peploe, and composer-actor Ryuichi Sakamoto
Disc 3
• The Italian Traveler: Bernardo Bertolucci, a 53-minute film by Fernand Moszkowicz tracing the director's geographic influences, from Parma to China
•  Video images taken by Bertolucci while on preproduction in China
•  The Chinese Adventure of Bernardo Bertolucci, a 52-minute documentary that revisits the film's making
•  Making the last Emperor - a new, 47-minute documentary featuring Storaro, editor Gabriella Cristiana, costume designer James Acheson, and art director Gianni Silvestri
Disc 4
• A 66-minute BBC documentary exploring Bertolucci's creative process and the making of The Last Emperor
• A 30-minute interview with Bertolucci from 1989
• A new interview with composer David Byrne
• A new interview with Ian Buruma examining the historical period of the film
• Theatrical trailer
•  96-page liner notes booklet featuring an essay by David Thomson, interviews with production designer Ferdinando Scarfiotti and actor Ying Ruocheng, a reminiscence by Bertolucci, and an essay and production-diary extracts from Fabien S. Gerard

DVD Release Date: February 26th, 2008
Custom 4-tiered Case (see image below)

Chapters 30 + 34

Release Information:
Studio: Artisan Entertainment

Aspect Ratio:
Widescreen letterbox - 2.29:1

Edition Details:
Interactive Menus

Scene Access

Theatrical Trailer

Production Notes

Cast & Crew Information


DVD Release Date: February 18, 2003
Keep Case

Chapters 36

Release Information:
Studio: Gaumont -Columbia

Aspect Ratio:
Widescreen anamorphic - 2.35:1

Edition Details:
• Disc 1 DVD 9: The Movie (2h35)

• Disc 2 DVD 5: Bonus Features
"BERNARDO BERTOLUCCI: LE VOYAGEUR ITALIEN" (45 min): • Interview and portrait of the film director (in French no sub)
• RYUICHI SAKAMOTO: Interview with the music composer of the film (15 min -
English with French sub)
• DAI SIJIE: Interview with the writer, author and director of "Balzac and
the little Chinese seamstress" (6 min 57 - in French no sub)
• BALADE AU COEUR DE PEKIN: a 3-part documentary in French about Peking
• Part 1: La Decouverte de Pekin - Discover Pekin (25 min)
• Part 2: Intermede Chinois (11 min 10)
• Part 3: La Cite interdite - The Forbidden City (2 min)
• Trailers of The Last Emperor and The Sheltering Sky
• Filmographies

DVD Release Date: April 1, 2003
Keep Case

Chapters 24

Release Information:
Studio:
Optimum

Aspect Ratio:
Widescreen letterbox - 2.02:1

Disc Size: 43,933,768,343 bytes

Theatrical Feature Size: 29,563,723,776 bytes

Average Bitrate: 19.00 Mbps

TV Feature Size: 8,188,624,896 bytes

Average Bitrate: 4.69 Mbps

Dual-layered Blu-ray MPEG-4 AVC Video 1080P + MPEG 2 (TV)

 

Edition Details:
• Commentary of the theatrical cut w/ Bertolucci, Thomas, and Sakamoto;

• a Making-of Documentary

• "Postcard from China".


Blu-ray Release Date: April 19th, 2010
Standard UK Blu-ray Case

Chapters 36

Comments:

NOTE: The below Blu-ray captures were ripped directly from the Blu-ray disc.

ADDITION: Optimum - Region 'B' - Blu-ray (May -10'): Short story - Optimum have included both cuts of the film on one Blu-ray. The shorter theatrical is in 1080P but the longer TV version is rendered in MPEG-2 SD, an appalling low bitrate and suffers from 4% in PAL speedup. Both version are in 2.0:1 aspect ratio. Sharing the disc is not a good idea - both cuts suffer visually. We've added some sporadic examples below.

There is a linear PCM 2.0 channel track and extras include the commentary, making of and Postcards from China. The Criterion still wins and this release is only or those region locked to 'B'.

***

ADDITION: Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray (December - 08'): So the vast discussion of the aspect ratio alteration by Storaro has ebbed but perhaps will resurface as this new Blu-ray becomes available... It was stated at the time that Vittorio Storaro believes that all his films shot in 35mm anamorphic (Technovision) should be presented at 2.00:1 on home video. He believes this for two reasons 1) because he thinks that all (his) films should replicate theaspect ratio of the Leonardo Da Vinci painting "The Last Supper" and 2) he does not think that DVD has enough resolution to properly represent the 2.4:1 aspect ratio... but doing a bit more research - Da Vinci's The Last Supper is not 2:1. The painting measures 460 880 centimeters (15 feet 29 ft) which is 1.91:1 - actually closer to 1.85 than it is to 2.0. So, Mr. Storaro, does Blu-ray have enough resolution to properly support 2.4? It comes down to an argument that no one can really win - this is the way that it is with Criterion respecting his preferences. Anyway...

 

We don't get the longer TV version here - as in the DVD package - we have only the 'Director-Approved' Theatrical 165-minute cut - again in 2.0:1. Criterion are utilizing the same high definition master as the DVD theatrical from earlier this year. This Blu-ray rendering, using MPEG-4, to 1080P gives improvement in both detail and colors even beyond the simple attribute of an extensively higher resolution. It seems marginally brighter and everything is visually tighter (colors - reds especially). Grandiose vista shots still show some grain/minor-noise but overall the image certainly shows superiority over its DVD counterpart. The larger the system this is viewed on the more noticeable the improvement. The grain structure has remained intact and this is what I noticed the most. The feature takes up over 30 Gig of space on this dual-layered Blu-ray disc with a reasonable bitrate of 26.6 mp/s (the DVD had 6.1). For a 20+-year old film there are some striking visuals on this Blu-ray. This seems far closer to a theatrical viewing than Criterion's current DVD rendition.

We've got a DTS-HD master for the audio - still 2.0 channel - and it sounded very clean / consistent and I noted some superiority over the DVD's DD 2.0 - being slightly crisper. I wouldn't say I found the disparity overwhelming though but it is there. Criterion still offer optional English subtitles.

On the extras - the commentary, featurettes, documentaries (detailed below) and the theatrical trailer (nothing in HD) have all been included but the booklet is only 16-pages worth with only the David Thomson essay and production information. With the Blu-ray we also get a Timeline feature for book-marking (red button opens timeline, green button bookmarks, blue deletes the bookmark).

So, we lose the longer TV version and some of the liner notes booklet but get the 'most perfect' digital presentation of the theatrical film and all the extras on one disc. Despite anything else - I believe that is certainly worth an upgrade (NOTE: presently more than $10 less than the DVD package).

Gary Tooze

***

ADDITION: Criterion - Region 1 - NTSC DVD package (February - 08') - Criterion bring fans a 4-disc package  of Bertolucci's masterpiece. The first 2 discs are for the films (Theatrical and TV versions) and discs 3 and 4 are for supplements. All 4 DVDs are dual-layered and in the NTSC standard coded for region 1.  The Criterion blog HERE mentions this:

"Not long after we began corresponding, Storaro came to New York, and when we met he explained the story behind the two different cuts. The filmmakers had been required to deliver a four-hour television version as part of their original deal. They delivered four 50-plus-minute episodes, accounting for the 218-minute length. Gabriella Cristiani, the editor, and Bertolucci then continued editing until they had the picture they wanted. The film screened in movie theaters in 1987--and which swept the Oscars--is Bertolucci's final cut."

The Criterion DVD is advertised on their website, and this package, as "All-new, restored high-definition digital transfer, supervised and approved by cinematographer Vittorio Storaro ".

I know there were some raised eyebrows at the adjustment of the aspect ratio to 2.20:1. (WikiPedia says - 'Storaro has reframed many of his earlier widescreen releases for the 2:00:1 ratio upon DVD release, including Apocalypse Now, Reds, and The Last Emperor[7]. This has however proved controversial with many film enthusiasts, who believe that regardless of Storaro's attempt to unify all aspect ratios, films should be viewed in the ratio they were filmed in, without any cropping...'). You can see the results below - there is some information, on both the Artisan and the Gaumont, that is not included within the frame of the Criterion transfer. However, the two most startling differences in the older editions to the new Criterion are in the areas of color and detail. Comparatively speaking the Gaumont appears even more greenish/yellow alongside the Criterion which exhibits far truer colors and a slightly soft pallet. The TV version on the Criterion is weaker than the theatrical - obviously because of the compression factor with such a larger amount of data being squeezed onto one disc. It tends to look significantly inferior in certain scenes - showing a  lot of digital noise. It has a bitrate of only 4.7 mbps and I assume could only have been greatly improved by spreading the 3.5 hour version on two discs. We have included some extra screen captures from the Criterion theatrical at the very bottom of this page to further show how competent the image has been rendered.

Audio is very clear and consistent - only an English 2.0 channel is offered and there are optional English subtitles (see sample below).

Extras: Disc one (Theatrical) offers a wonderful audio commentary featuring director Bernardo Bertolucci, producer Jeremy Thomas, screenwriter Mark Peploe, and composer-actor Ryuichi Sakamoto. Each has interesting input and I feel I got a great education on both the production of The Last Emperor as well as historical data on the fascinating story behind the film. Also on Disc 1 is a theatrical trailer. Disc 3 has a feature called The Italian Traveler: Bernardo Bertolucci. It is a 53-minute film made in 1984 by Fernand Moszkowicz (assistant director on Last Tango in Paris) traces the director's geographic influences, from Parma to China. The video quality is quite poor but the story is fairly engaging. Next there is 'Postcards From China' - 8 minutes of home-video-like images taken by Bertolucci while on preproduction in China searching for faces, landscapes and atmosphere. The Chinese Adventure of Bernardo Bertolucci is a 52-minute documentary that revisits the film's production by Paolo Brunnato made in 1986 with footage taken on the set. Making the Last Emperor is a new, 47-minute documentary featuring Storaro, editor Gabriella Cristiana, costume designer James Acheson, and art director Gianni Silvestri. It focuses on some of the reasons that it swept the technical Oscars for 1988. Disc 4 has a 66-minute BBC documentary exploring Bertolucci's creative process and the making of The Last Emperor, a 30-minute interview with Bertolucci from 1989, a new 25-minute interview with composer David Byrne and a new interview with Ian Buruma examining the historical period of the film (great for those keen on the Chinese history). Not including the commentary there is almost 5 hours of supplements. Finally there is a very professionally bound 96-page liner notes booklet featuring an essay by David Thomson, interviews with production designer Ferdinando Scarfiotti and actor Ying Ruocheng, a reminiscence by Bertolucci, and an essay and production-diary extracts from Fabien S. Gerard.

The package is busting with Criterion's extensive and passionate attention to detail and is a wonderful addition to any DVD library. The film has never looked better on digital in my opinion and it is loaded with valuable insights into the production, the nstory, and Bertolucci himself. A grand achievement of a film supported by a grand achievement of a DVD package. Strongly recommend!

Gary Tooze

ON THE ARTISAN VS. THE GAUMONT: The picture and sound quality on the R1 (Artisan) are TERRIBLE! It's unbearably dark and grainy throughout the movie. The colors are adjusted up as if it was a copy of a transfer from a video tape. It has contrast boosting and is very hazy at times. Though the back cover indicates Widescreen version: Presented in a "matted" widescreen format preserving 2:35.1 OAR...., it shows to be cropped and zoomed at around 2.29:1. Horrible! Compared to the R2, the image on the R1 is severely cropped both sides and even top/bottom as well.

Though the Artisan R1 edition is the 218-min Director's Cut, containing an additional hour of new scenes which expand on Pu Yi's childhood, including details of Pu Yi's tight bond with his wet nurse, the terrible transfer quality ruins everything and makes the movie no longer enjoyable. Everything is superior on the Region 2!

 - Kevin Tran



DVD Menus

Criterion DVD Package Disc 1

 

 

Criterion DVD Package Disc 2

 

 

Criterion DVD Package Disc 3

 

 

Criterion DVD Package Disc 4

 



(Artisan - Region 1 - NTSC - LEFT vs. G.C.T.H.V. - Region 2 - PAL - RIGHT)


 


 

Criterion DVD Package

 


 

CLICK EACH BLU-RAY CAPTURE TO SEE ALL IMAGES IN FULL 1920X1080 RESOLUTION

 

Screen Captures

 

 

1) Criterion (Theatrical Version - disc 1) - Region 1 - NTSC - TOP

2) Criterion (Theatrical Version - Blu-ray) - Region 'A' - MIDDLE

3) Optimum (Theatrical Version - Blu-ray) - Region 'B' - BOTTOM

 


 

1) Artisan - Region 1 - NTSC - TOP

2) G.C.T.H.V. - Region 2 - PAL - SECOND

3) Criterion (Television Version - disc 2) - Region 1 - NTSC - THIRD

4) Criterion (Theatrical Version - disc 1) - Region 1 - NTSC - FOURTH

5) Criterion (Theatrical Version - Blu-ray) - Region 'A' - BOTTOM


 

1) Artisan - Region 1 - NTSC - TOP

2) G.C.T.H.V. - Region 2 - PAL - SECOND

3) Criterion (Television Version - disc 2) - Region 1 - NTSC - THIRD

4) Criterion (Theatrical Version - disc 1) - Region 1 - NTSC - FOURTH

5) Criterion (Theatrical Version - Blu-ray) - Region 'A' - FIFTH

6) Optimum (Theatrical Version - Blu-ray) - Region 'B' - SIXTH

 


 

1) Artisan - Region 1 - NTSC - TOP

2) G.C.T.H.V. - Region 2 - PAL - SECOND

3) Criterion (Television Version - disc 2) - Region 1 - NTSC - THIRD

4) Criterion (Theatrical Version - disc 1) - Region 1 - NTSC - FOURTH

5) Criterion (Theatrical Version - Blu-ray) - Region 'A' - BOTTOM


 

1) Artisan - Region 1 - NTSC - TOP

2) G.C.T.H.V. - Region 2 - PAL - SECOND

3) Criterion (Television Version - disc 2) - Region 1 - NTSC - THIRD

4) Criterion (Theatrical Version - disc 1) - Region 1 - NTSC - FOURTH

5) Criterion (Theatrical Version - Blu-ray) - Region 'A' - FIFTH

6) Optimum (Theatrical Version - Blu-ray) - Region 'B' - SIXTH

7) Optimum (TV Version - Blu-ray) - Region 'B' - BOTTOM


 

1) Artisan - Region 1 - NTSC - TOP

2) G.C.T.H.V. - Region 2 - PAL - SECOND

3) Criterion (Television Version - disc 2) - Region 1 - NTSC - THIRD

4) Criterion (Theatrical Version - disc 1) - Region 1 - NTSC - FOURTH

5) Criterion (Theatrical Version - Blu-ray) - Region 'A' - BOTTOM

 


More Caps from the Blu-rays

1) Criterion (Theatrical Version - Blu-ray) - Region 'A' - TOP

2) Optimum (Theatrical Version - Blu-ray) - Region 'B' - BOTTOM

 

 

1) Criterion (Theatrical Version - Blu-ray) - Region 'A' - TOP

2) Optimum (Theatrical Version - Blu-ray) - Region 'B' - BOTTOM

 

 

1) Criterion (Theatrical Version - Blu-ray) - Region 'A' - TOP

2) Optimum (Theatrical Version - Blu-ray) - Region 'B' - BOTTOM

 

 

More Criterion Blu-ray images

 

 

 


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Distribution

Criterion Collection - Spine # 422

Region 'A' - Blu-ray

Criterion Collection - Spine # 422

Region 1  - NTSC

Artisan Home Entertainment

Region 1  - NTSC

Gaumont/Columbia Tri-Star Home Video Region 2 - PAL

Optimum Home Entertainment

Region 'B' - Blu-ray


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Mississauga, Ontario,

   CANADA

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