Some have criticised it as being historically inaccurate, others for being too passive, but whatever your feelings, no one can deny Bernardo Bertolucci's The Last Emperor (World, 9.40pm) is one of the most visually stunning movies ever created. At the time, it was the Italian director's first movie in six years and it seems as if he put six years of creative energy into it, so intricate is the detail, so real the imagery. The biography follows the life of Pu Yi, who in 1908 at the age of three was named emperor; by the end of his life he was working as a gardener in Beijing's botanical gardens. The story, told using flashback and flashforward, follows his life as a prisoner in the Forbidden City (where it was filmed), his term as Japan's puppet emperor of Manchukuo and his release into the population of China in 1959, with his communist 'remoulding' period as its fulcrum. Though conceived as a historical epic, the film's heart is the story of a young man's journey of self-discovery, as much as a documentary of a country's change. The former is told with an emphasis on myth rather than fact and the latter through a selective sampling of events. Yet we have to remember, Bertolucci is a story-teller not a historian and his efforts justifiably won the film nine Academy Awards and four Golden Globes. Much of the credit must go to the lighting and camerawork of Vittorio Storaro, whose cinematographer skills have rarely been matched. But Bertolucci also drew stunning performances from the cast, notably John Lone as the adult and Wu Tao as the adolescent Pu Yi. Both actors convey the emperor's innocence, ignorance and veiled cruel streak to perfection. Joan Chen is equally convincing both as the radiant teen bride and the rotting opium addict and Peter O'Toole, more restrained than usual, positively becomes the emperor's Scottish tutor, Reginald Johnston. The second half will be shown tomorrow. Any other day of the week, Jefferson In Paris (Pearl, 9.30pm) would attract a good audience. Today the competition is too great, even if, in true Merchant-Ivory form, this is also a dazzling period piece with stunning attention to detail. Nick Nolte plays widower Thomas Jefferson, who, during a period as American ambassador to the court of King Louis XVI, had an affair with a married white woman (Greta Scaachi) and an enslaved black woman. What the film lacks is the spirit shown in other Merchant-Ivory productions seen recently, like A Room With A View and Maurice. Many of the familiar cast also appear. Inevitably, with one week to go, all local-made news magazines are concentrating on the handover. Inside Story (World, 8.05pm) presents an unusually personal profile of Martin Lee's life and campaign for more and protected civil liberties in Hong Kong. While some accuse him of simply wanting to be a martyr, he tells Jennifer Lee he's speaking out on principle. 'People were very happy to criticise the British Government. People were indeed very happy to criticise the Hong Kong Government. Every party can do that and everybody has been doing that. But how many would take their stand firmly and criticise Beijing when they're wrong?' Also, the show heads to Edinburgh to interview Lord David Wilson, Hong Kong's 27th governor and the man holding the post during one of the territory's most trying periods, the aftermath of the Tiananmen Square massacre. The team also investigates the fact that despite having been told for months there are no rooms left at the territory's hotels, there are still thousands of empty beds, the result, some claim, of exorbitantly hiked rates.