• The Last Emperor (1987). (SBS Movies)Source: SBS Movies
Movies and food are two of the things we do best at SBS, and you can now enjoy the best of both worlds in this new column matching delicious recipes with soul-nourishing films.
Sandra Beeston

18 Sep 2015 - 2:33 PM  UPDATED 11 Dec 2020 - 3:13 PM

Bernardo Bertolucci's epic account of the life of China's final Emperor, Pu Yi, won an impressive 9 Oscars in 1988.

This lavish production, which was shot in the Forbidden City, follows Pu Yi's ascent to the throne as small boy, through to the tumultuous circumstances of his abdication, and eventual slide into anonymity in Communist China.

In an early scene of the movie, the teenage emperor invites his Scottish tutor Reginald 'R. J.' Johnston (the late Peter O'Toole), assigned to teach him about Western culture, to share his meal.  

An an army of waiters enter his quarters, the official food taster ("A brave man," says Pu Yi) samples every single dish, deciding on its fate with a nod or a grimace. 

As this odd spectacle unfolds under R. J.'s bemused gaze, the young emperor explains to him its necessity, given a number of his predecessors have fallen victim to poisoning.

The scene ends as it began, with a well-rehearsed display of deference.


With a nod to Pu Yi's vegetarianism, we've selected this easy and beautifully spicy Vegetarian Mapo Tofu from our friends at SBS Food. It's quick and easy to prepare and is so delicious it will satisfy even the fussiest of food testers. Why not make it and then settle in to watch The Last Emperor at SBS On Demand?


Find this recipe at SBS Food

Vegetarian mapo tofu with shiitake mushrooms


Watch 'The Last Emperor'

Tuesday 15 December, 9:30pm on SBS World Movies
Thursday 17 December, 2:15am on SBS World Movies

China, UK, Italy, France, 1987
Genre: Biography, Drama, History
Language: Mandarin
Director: Bernardo Bertolucci
Starring: Victor Wong, John Lone, Ruocheng Ying, Joan Chen, Peter O'Toole

Now streaming at SBS On Demand:

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Full collection: Dinner and a Movie
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