Despite its bold opening of Puyi's attempted suicide as a prisoner in a reeducation camp in his late 50s, The Last Emperor is your standard biopic, complete with the framework of the aged character telling the story of his life. Of course, Puyi's peculiar childhood is the most interesting half of the two-and-a-half-hour film, and it's there where Bertolucci's grip on the material is the strongest. From the seven-year-old Puyi's desperation to connect with the mother he was separated from six years prior to the teenage Puyi's pet mouse. Bertolucci's poetics seem to transcend the film's immaculate design and execution. It helps that the material is inherently interesting -- we are all bound by duty in some regard and are constantly looking for an escape. Still, Bertolucci takes chances, even shocking us with a seven-year-old Puyi nestling in his mother's bare bosom or the pet mouse meeting its demise against the Forbidden City's gate at the hands of a frustrated Puyi. These are not mere exploits, however, but sad moments where it's clear that Puyi's childhood and foreshadowed adulthood needs and desires are controlled by others.
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A crazy parody of martial arts flicks, supernatural/spirit movies, and old-fashioned westerns, Big Trouble in Little China gives us Kurt Russell as the inimitable Jack Burton, a good-natured truck driver unconsciously obsessed with John Wayne. On one of his trips to San Francisco, poor Jack gets swept up in a universe-bounding plot to kidnap a Chinese girl with green eyes, landing knee-deep amidst warring gangs that dwell in the Chinatown underground and an ancient spirit that emits blinding light from its mouth.
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'Smalls Change (Meditations Upon Ageing)' arrives in April.
The two awards have made for a great 72nd birthday present for the country music icon.