Favorite Scene Theatre: Empire of the Sun (1987)

In light of author J.G. Ballard’s passing, I thought FST would turn its cinephelic eye on Steven Spielberg’s adaptation of his novel EMPIRE OF THE SUN, easily one of the best, most underrated films of the 1980’s. I was particularly taken by the young Christian Bale, who gives a phenomenal and Oscar-worthy performance. EOTS is a real 1960’s Road Show style epic, missing only an intermission, and while it tends to structurally fall apart towards the end, there are many great moments, including my favorite, this haunting, moving scene with Bale, an airplane fanatic, winding through a Japanese prison camp and his confrontation with three airfield pilots. Spielberg is the master of cinematic emotional goosebumps, and this is the last time that one of his scenes elicited those full body tingles from me, but what a way to go…

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9 Responses to “Favorite Scene Theatre: Empire of the Sun (1987)”

  1. oh bless you christian for that clip, and well said.

    i ADORE ’empire of the sun’, i watched it recently with my boy for his first time and i actually wondered if i’d done the right thing, he was deeply moved and disturbed by it and weeks later he’s still talking bout it. it’s the first movie we’ve watched together and both cried like babies (tho to be honest we both shed a wee tear at the end of ‘stand by me’ when the death of chris chambers is revealed). my boy didn’t believe me when i pointed out ‘jim’ is the same actor as ‘batman’ all grown up.

  2. christian Says:

    Good for you. EOTS is a boy’s adventure tale fever dream anyway. Tho Malkovich is creepy and wholly unrepentant, much more so in the book I gather. If made today, the planes would all be CG…I was always hoping young Bale would find a niche for himself when he got older.

  3. jkeeling Says:

    Adam C. has been on my arse to watch EOTS forever. I’m not big on Spielberg and so never think of it. I did however look for it yesterday at blockbuster. Not there, so i got Coffee & Cigarettes and Factotum instead.

    In the link you provided, i believe i saw a device Spielberg has used before –a device which provided for me the most moving moment in Schindler’s List. The scene is mostly black and white, but the kid (Bale) is wearing red.

  4. Hooray!

    I have not seen all of Christian Bale (especially as an adult) but this is my favorite performance of his.

    I haven’t seen all of Spielberg’s films (especially as an adult–and I’ll let you figure out if I’m talking about him or myself) but this is his very best. Keep your Schindler’s List and your Color Purple. This is where it all came together for one brief moment.

  5. christian Says:

    I’m shocked, SHOCKED, to find you like this one…It is Bale’s finest hour.

  6. If this is the clip I think it is (can’t watch it here) then it nearly embarrased me in a college class once. The teacher showed the clip, and I just about started crying in class at the beauty of it (and I’d already seen it even!)

    This also happened to me the first time I watched Soderbergh’s King of the Hill, on laserdisc in a campus lab – there was no almost this time, I lost control.

  7. christian Says:

    It is the clip you think.

    I have to revisit KING OF THE HILL. I liked it but it didn’t engage me as emotionally as the story dictated. It’s not even available on DVD, right? Crazy.

  8. That’s funny Christian, we’ve been over this particular hash before, but I’m colder on Soderbergh than you, and I LOVE King of the Hill. That actually might make sense, its one of his least characteristic pictures. And one would think, now that Soderbergh is a big cheese, that Criterion would step up on this bad boy. If the beyond-asinine Ben Button gets a Criterion, then anything Soderbergh should be eligible.

  9. christian Says:

    It’s great they have SCHIZOPOLIS on Criterion but not KOTH…

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