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Criterion Screens 'Last Emperor' With Producer, Stars

20 Feb, 2008 By: Chris Tribbey

(L-R, front) Kim Hendrickson, executive producer, The Criterion Collection; Chen, Wu and Becker. (L-R, rear) Garrett Lee, SVP, product development, Image Entertainment; Thomas, and Steven DeMille, SVP, marketing, Image Entertainment.

Image Entertainment has been going after the rights to The Last Emperor for years. Criterion Collection president Peter Becker has wanted it for a lot longer.

“It's been so long coming. We first wanted to work on The Last Emperor from the beginning [of Criterion],” Becker said at a reception and screening of the 1987 best picture Oscar winner at the American Cinematheque's Egyptian Theater in Hollywood on Feb. 19. “Finally when Image was able to acquire the rights, we pretty much went right to work. It's a film of such magnitude and scope it required a release of such scope and depth.”

The release offers the ultimate treatment for the epic film. The special edition, four-disc set will street Feb. 26 and includes a new high-definition master of the theatrical version, a new high-def digital transfer of the nearly four-hour-long TV version, a commentary, a film following the director's work on The Last Emperor, several featurettes, stills, interviews, a trailer and a production booklet.

“It's so wonderful to finally have this film,” said Richard Buchalter, SVP of sales for Image. “We got on the horn immediately with Peter and found that it was his favorite film. A match made in heaven. We finally have the perfect version of this film, and the perfect release for it.”

Representatives from Criterion and Image joined The Last Emperor producer Jeremy Thomas and stars Joan Chen and Vivian Wu for a question and answer session following the screening.

“[Criterion does] the best editions available,” said producer Thomas, whose film swept the Oscar categories for which it was nominated, taking home nine in total. He added that he considers the new DVD set to be one of the finest additions to his collection of thousands. “Fortunately, or unfortunately, it is the most successful film I ever made.”

Thomas worked with director Bernardo Bertolucci, composer Ryuichi Sakamoto and screenwriter Mark Peploe on the audio commentary for the DVD.

“It's moving, doing the commentary. You're transported back. It was a long time ago, and this made it so vivid,” Thomas said. “It's amazing what we accomplished back in those days without CG.”

Getting the special features together for the DVD release was actually easy, Becker and Thomas agreed. “A lot of my films don't have a ton of stuff, but for this one we had plenty to work with,” Thomas said.

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