In episode 55 of the Podcast for Social Research, BISR faculty Ajay Singh Chaudhary, Rebecca Ariel Porte, and Isabella Katrina Litke sit down after our Occasional Evening screening of The Last Emperor to record a film guide to Bernardo Bertolucci’s 1987 masterpiece. Subjects discussed include the making of the film (with the active participation of the Chinese Communist Party), its themes, and its fascinating approach to the grand sweep of 20th-century Chinese history. What can The Last Emperor, in its depiction of the Pu Yi’s fall from Chinese emperor to re-educated gardener, teach us about the interplay of aesthetics, politics, and history? How does the film manage (where so many period pieces fail) to aestheticize aristocracy while also eschewing nostalgia? And what does it mean, cinematically, to democratize the past?
This episode of the Podcast for Social Research was edited by Delilah Righter. If you enjoyed the podcast, please consider supporting our Patreon page.