* 180g 2LP "Fire and Cloud" Colored Limited Edition, 45 RPM
The Last Emperor is a lavish historical epic directed by the great Italian filmmaker Bernardo Bertolucci and starring John Lone, Joan Chen, and Peter O'Toole. The film tells the life story of Pu Yi, the last monarch of the Chinese Qing dynasty prior to the republican revolution in 1911. The score for The Last Emperor was created by an unlikely trio: Ryuichi Sakamoto, David Byrne, and Cong Su. The soundtrack is a theme-filled exploration of the sounds and musical traditions of Imperial China, filtered through some very contemporary sensibilities. Sakamoto's contribution comprises nine cues and is focused around his main theme: a beautiful, lyrical melody for the full orchestra. It's soft, wistful, and introspective, but becomes increasingly dramatic. Byrne contributes five cues, and the first one is the most recognisable, as it's the main title theme playing over the film's stylish opening credits sequence. It emerges from a set of evocative Chinese percussion items, with the melody being carried by a gorgeous, lilting erhu. It's traditional and wholly steeped in Chinese classical music, but it has a real emotional weight that will connect with westerners. Cong Su's contribution to the soundtrack album comprises just one cue - “Lunch” - but there is much more of his music in the film; Su was basically responsible for writing all the period-specific Chinese source music one hears in and around the imperial palace during Pu Yi's childhood. All in all, Sakamoto, Byrne and Cong Su deliver an excellent score.