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"Farewell, My Concubine" is a movie with two parallel, intertwined stories. It is the story of two performers in the Beijing Opera, stage brothers, and the woman who comes between them. At the same time, it attempts to do no less than squeeze the entire political history of China in the twentieth century into a three-hour time-frame. Written by
Michael Kim <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Miramax Filmsmogul "Harvey Weinstein" purchased the distribution rights and removed ten minutes. This is the version seen in U.S. theaters (and also in the U.K.) According to Peter Biskind's book, "Down and Dirty Pictures: Miramax, Sundance and the Rise of Independent Film", Louis Malle, who was president of the Cannes jury that year, said: "The film was admired so much in Cannes is not the film seen in this country (referring to the U.S.), which is twenty minutes shorter - but seems longer because it doesn't make any sense. It was better before those guys made cuts." The uncut version of the film was released on DVD by Miramax and Disney, and is the original 171-minute version. See more »
When Douzi is first examined by the owner of the opera troupe, his extra finger is on his right hand below the thumb. When he withdraws the hand from the opera troupe owner, he pulls back his left arm. When his mother cuts the extra finger off a few moments later, it is now on his left hand, next to his pinkie. See more »
A lavish, opulent, and intense film; bring your lunch
As far as story and content goes this owes more than a little to The Last Emperor (1987), which is not surprising since Director Kaige Chen was a member of the cast of that film and no doubt was influenced by its success. But stylistically, and especially as the film was directed and cut, "Farewell, My Concubine" is original and stands alone. If The Last Emperor was a Western movie about the Chinese political experience in the Twentieth Century, then Farewell, My Concubine is a Chinese movie, influenced by the West, about that same experience. While the former focused on the emperor and those around him, "Farewell..." focuses on two actors of the Beijing opera.
Admittedly, "Farewell..." is long (I saw the 157-minute version) and sometimes strays from it intent, but gains and maintains power and keeps our interest mainly because everything is presented in a starkly-lit, intensely focused manner. The epic-like story itself is good if a little pedestrian at times. The lavish and stunning sets in opulent color and design, are just fascinating to view. Everything from the extras in the crowds to the porcelain for tea is carefully chosen and presented. Particularly striking are the traditional costumes and makeup, shown to advantage through the fine camera work. But what makes the film is the glimpse we get of the world of the Beijing opera and its traditions. From the Dickensian boy's school for the actors to the intrigues with patrons and the political powers that be, there's the sense of a world beyond our experience.
The acting was also excellent. The beautiful Gong Li, who played Duan's wife was captivating as she displayed a wide range of emotion. Leslie Cheung as Dieyi, "the concubine," and Fengyi Zhang as Duan, "the king," were also excellent. The boys who played the actors as children, especially the actor who played Douzi, were first rate.
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