TOKYO -- A Japanese film distributor has said it will restore newsreel footage of atrocities by Japanese troops in China to the version of the film "The Last Emperor" that opens in Japan today. The cuts had been made without the authorization of the director, Bernardo Bertolucci.
Shochiku Fuji Co. had said earlier that the scenes showing Japanese soldiers killing Chinese during the "Rape of Nanking" in 1937 had been deleted by the producers to avoid "rekindling" the debate about the extent of atrocities committed by the Japanese.
"We'll restore it to its version as provided to us for the opening in Japan," said Shinji Serada, vice president of Shochiku Fuji. "A misunderstanding has caused all the fuss," he said in an interview at his office.
"I have reached Mr. Bertolucci in Rome and informed him the film would be restored," Serada said.
The 2 3/4-hour movie, shown intact at the Tokyo film festival last September, is based on Pu Yi's autobiography, "From Emperor to Citizen."
Bertolucci said in London this week that in the editing he had cut a few seconds after three months of pressure by the Japanese distributor to cut the newsreel footage substantially.
"In order to unblock a situation which seemed paralyzed, and in agreement with the producer of the film, Jeremy Thomas, I made a few seconds of cuts which are irrelevant to the substance of the sequence, hoping to satisfy in some way with my gesture what I thought was the Japanese need for formality," Bertolucci said in a statement.
"I understand now that not only did the Japanese distributor cut the whole sequence of the 'Rape of Nanking' without my authorization and against my will, without even informing me, but they also declared to the British press that myself and the producer Jeremy Thomas had made the original proposition to mutilate the movie. This is absolutely false and revolting," he said.
In the meantime, Foreign Ministry spokesman Yoshifumi Matsuda told a news conference the Japanese government "has nothing to do with the issue" because it was a matter concerning private individuals.
"Showing films is entirely their business ... Cutting or no cutting, we didn't ask anything," he said.
According to the Chinese government, more than 300,000 people, mainly civilians, were killed or raped after Nanking, then China's capital, fell to four Japanese Imperial Army divisions after Japan invaded China. Others have put the number at closer to 200,000.
But Japanese conservative groups, including the National Conference for the Defense of Japan, maintain that these numbers are vastly overstated.
Bertolucci's film, which has opened in Europe and the United States, traces Pu Yi's life from being the last emperor of the Qing Dynasty, at the age of 3, to his final years as a gardener in Beijing.
Pu Yi was deposed in the 1911 revolution, which established a republican government, and was a virtual prisoner in the Imperial Palace until 1924.
He was made ruler of Japan's puppet state in Manchukuo in northeast China in 1934, but was sent to a Chinese prison when the Soviets occupied Manchukuo at the end of World War II in 1945. He eventually was pardoned and worked as a gardener until his death in 1967.