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The movie Steven Seagal said grabs “your entire essence”

April 18, 20243 Mins Read

While the films of Steven Seagal lack perhaps an air of critical admiration, as far as the action movie genre goes, it’s hard to deny their brilliance. Having a 7th-dan black belt in aikido at the forefront of such action classics naturally means that they arrived with an air of authenticity about them.

After making his acting debut in 1988’s Above the Law, Seagal went on to deliver some of the most iconic moments in 1990s action cinema, including his efforts in Under Siege, The Patriot and his directorial debut On Deadly Ground. Later efforts arrived in the shape of Robert Rodriguez’s Machete, in which Seagal played a villain in a rare turn.

Seagal is simply one of American cinema’s biggest enigmas. Not only does he possess an enviable filmography and has recorded music with the likes of Stevie Wonder, but he also possesses a dark side, having offered his support for Vladimir Putin despite the Russian leader’s notorious actions.

Seagal himself is no stranger to the brilliant works of cinema despite perhaps being limited in his range to movies mostly in the action genre. Behind the martial artist lies a man with a deep passion for the cinematic medium, and Seagal once named his five favourite movies of all time in a feature with Rotten Tomatoes.

After explaining how Mike Nichols’ 1991 film Regarding Henry shows how “reality can, in the blink of an eye, completely change somebody’s life,” the actor proceeded to name another of his top choices that seems to detail a pivotal moment in someone’s life, a classic from Bernardo Bertolucci.

Of 1987’s The Last Emperor, Seagal said, “Once again, how lives can tremendously overturn one’s life and, you know, go from the sacred to the profane, the black to white.” The biographical epic is adapted from the final Emperor of China, Puyi’s 1964 autobiography, with Bertolucci writing the screenplay with Mark Peploe.

Starring John Lone in the lead role, with Peter O’Toole, Joan Chen and several others in supporting roles, The Last Emperor details the life of Puyi, beginning with his ascent to the throne as a young child to the later imprisonment and political rehabilitation by the Chinese Communist Party.

Ryuichi Sakamoto, who also starred in the film, composed the film’s score with the aid of David Byrne and Cong Su. Waxing philosophical over Bertolucci’s film for a moment, Seagal noted, “We as human beings are really merely passengers who think we have control over the vehicle we’re driving.”

The Last Emperor went on to earn universal critical acclaim plus commercial success. Nominated for a mammoth nine Academy Awards, Bertolucci’s film won every single category it was given the nod for, including ‘Best Picture’, ‘Best Director’ and ‘Best Adapted Screenplay’.

Continuing to express his deep admiration for the film, Seagal said, “In terms of grandeur — powerful, you know, the ability to really reach down and really grab your entire essence and move you — I think that The Last Emperor was truly a masterpiece in every way.”

Seagal is not the first person we think of when we consider the great works of cinema, but his comments on Bertolucci show an actor who has a deep understanding of the importance of the medium. The Last Emperor was a film that the martial artist can simply never forget.

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