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|Index||86 reviews in total|
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The director absolutely pay attention to details. Like xiao si captured by red guard is allusion to when he replace dieyi. Juxian suicide allusion to laizi suicide. A lot of scene were like that to bring the concept of karma which often mentioned at the movie. The ending was confusing but after watching Birdman ending I believe dieyi died then xiaolou scream dieyi but then smile and saying 'douzi' as means he saw dieyi as a man while it just his imagination. This movie is confusing but easy to analyze if paying a lot of attention to detail. For example the shadow of burning candle on Xiaolou Juxian photo. That is why every scene is very interesting to watch. To be honest, Chinese movie today is terrible which it so surprising to find this movie so great. If only China stop censoring everything they would beat Hollywood already because China has lot of talented filmmakers. And plus point is Leslie. He is so gorgeous in make up that his beauty defeats Juxian (Gong Li is much manlier that the rest of male character though) and make everyone in gay. Minus point is propaganda. Communist has better manner than Nationalist? Please just compare Mainland and Taiwan now. But better than Jackie Chan who is CCP whore (although his action great). I would recommend any Fujoshi out there to include this in 1001 boy's love to watch before you die.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I grow up in mainland China, and this one is absolutely the best Chinese movie I've ever watched. Ba Wang Bie Ji is the kind of movie that you respect paramountly, but you could hardly be courageous enough to watch it again.( Like I've watched the trilogy of Batman dozens of times) What this movie interprets is too grave for anyone who's been through those historic tragedy to bear. I just couldn't continue to watch it when those tiny little kids were punished to death, when the terror that Japanese invasion brought engulfing the whole city, when the loving couples were forced to betray each other...After watching this movie, I felt an indescribable sorrow surrounding me. I will tell anyone asking me about this movie that it is definitely a great epic, but probably I'm not going to watch it anymore.
A re-visit of this probably, most accoladed Chinese film in the 20th
century, Canne's Palme d'or winner (an honor deservingly shared with
Jane Campion's THE PIANO 1993), two Oscar nominations, and other awards
galore. Directed by Chen Kaige, the trailblazer of "The Fifth
Generation" directors (along with Zhang Yimou) in China, FAREWELL MY
CONCUBINE has remained as his most intrepid and accomplished work ever,
it is a chef-d'uvre goes right down in the annals of the entire
history of cinema.
The full version runs about 170 minutes, and spans over 50 years, it traverses through the turmoil times of contemporary China. Starting from 1924, in the Republic of China (1912-1949), a 9-year- old boy Douzi (Ma, Yin in different ages) is left by his prostitute mother (Jiang, in a devilish showy cameo) to a Peking Opera troupe, run by the rigorous Master Guan (Lv), under whose extremely strict coaching measures, where physical punishment is meted out on a daily base, Douzi is trained to play female roles due to his feminine appearance, and strikes an intimate affinity with a senior fellow apprentice Shitou (Fei and Zhao). An agonizing process of Douzi's dragooned shifting from cisgender to trans-gender paves the way for his success in the field, but also foreshadows his tragedy where he can no longer retract himself from his female character, Yuji, whom he plays in the traditional play "Farewell My Concubine", she is the loyal concubine of King Xiang Yu, played by Shitou. Projecting him and Shitou as Yuji and Xiang Yu, Douzi loses his grasp of the fine line between reality and performance, but Shitou isn't.
Time jumps to the Japanese invasion in the 30s, when Dieyi (literally means butterfly's dress, the stage name of adult Douzi, Cheung) and Xiaolou (means small pavilion, the stage name of Shitou, Zhang) have become star opera singers, mostly for their collaboration of "Farewell My Concubine". A crack occurs, when a headline prostitute Juxian (Gong) contrives her way to marry Xiaolou as an opt-out from the whorehouse, the inseparability between Yuji and her King is deadly breached, Dieyi feels betrayed, but the show must go on. Through the rapid-changing political landscape of its time, from Japanese, Kumingtang, to the Communist Party, which established the PRC in 1949, until the Cultural Revolution in the late 60s, the trio experiences a string of tumultuous happenings: miscarriage, opium addiction, imprisonment, trial for treason, disciple betrayal, etc., which Chen dauntlessly brings about with no trepidation of the harsh censorship of the government (the film was denied a theatrical release in mainland China, for obvious reasons), and reach its apex in a heart-rending criticism and denunciation meeting encircled by the Red Guards, where Dieyi searingly lashes out his disillusion, spite and wrath, once and for all, it finishes with an abrupt but poignant suicide. Then, after out of contact over a decade long, the two brothers finally reunite on the stage for their grand finale with a highly cinematic coda.
This is Hong Kong legendary star, Leslie Cheung's most audacious and dazzling endeavor, whose personal back-story (as a closeted gay man, he committed suicide on the April Fool's Day 2003 because of depression, at the age of 46) in retrospective makes his brilliant impersonation of Dieyi more plaintive and heart-breaking to watch, his impeccable semblance of a woman in full cosmetics is deceptively alluring, yet he is far from being a pretty face, his subtle facial impressions, gestures, line-delivery and body language all precisely hit the perfect note of a soul desperately clinging to his illusion, driven mad by jealousy, deeply disheartened and traumatized by the milieu.
Zhang Fengyi's Xiaolou, wonderfully balances Dieyi's delicacy with his macho superiority and bluntness, which is tune with the strategy to intentionally sidestep the elephant-in-the-room in their relationship, and makes the case more like a meta-identity confusion tale than a taboo- divulging melodrama, homo-erotic tension has been mostly taken out, whereas vignette between Douzi and a senior eunuch is not for the faint-hearted. Xiaolou is only the king in the opera, back to reality, his virility is a false front, and he is ready to snitch on everyone when difficult time approaches, but we cannot blame him, he is no hero, but an ordinary man tries to save his life, most of us would do the same, right?
Gong Li, the goddess of contemporary Chinese cinema, grabs a meaty supporting role here, becomes the unwelcome third wheel among the two men, her Juxian, is a woman knows what she wants and never hesitates to get it, she is tough, manipulating but not vicious, one of the most poignant moments is when she and Dieyi establishes a semi-mother-and-son bond during the latter's cold turkey period, that is the only time, hostility caves in to warmth and affections, yet it is evanescent, her only mistake is that she puts all her stakes on a wrong man and sticks to him afterward, among all the main characters, she is the most ambiguous one but Gong's expertise makes her the most sympathetic one too.
Gu Changwei's Oscar-nominated cinematography, the exotic atmosphere around Peking opera scenes and a distinctively oriental score by Zhao Jiping, even popular comedian Ge You's subdued performance in a drama role, one can ramble on and on, but in the end of the day, it needs to be seen by more audience, particular young Chinese filmmakers, simply to show the world that Chinese cinema can produce masterpieces despite that it has been stuck in the dry spell for too long, with an ostensibly booming market congested with utterly inferior commodities.
In this movie based on Lilian Lee's masterpiece, Chen Kaige has mainly
developed the evolution of the 'sentimental' link between two actors
(one gay one) through the turbulent history of China in the 20th
century, with the fall of the Empire, the Japanese occupation, the
civil war, the communist victory and the Cultural Revolution. The
Chinese opera "Farewell My Concubine" functions marvelously as a
leitmotiv. The sentimental relationship between the two actors, and
later with the lover of one of them played superbly by Gong Li, will be
seriously shaken during the political earthquakes. Although 'everyone
should be responsible for his own fate', everybody, if he isn't strong
enough physically or psychologically, could be forced to betray his
friend by false accusations, particularly during violent public
interrogations. The political message of the film can be summarized by
the slogan: 'Cursed are the tyrants who plunge their people into
With unforgettable scenes, like the abandonment of a child by his mother, the rigorous training of the young aspirant-actors, the public political trials or the meeting of 'old friends', Chen Kaige translated perfectly in moving pictures (with sublime color grading) Lilian Lee's text.
Nevertheless, Lilian Lee's book transcends all personal relationships with her sublime meditations on art, the artist, individual life, love, death and politics. One example from the book: in the ordinary world, victory and defeat, life or death are only during the time of a wink. But art and artists are not part of this world, where politics with its slogan 'kill or be killed' only sow pain, suffering and misery. Through art, the spectators escape during the spectacle for a few hours the harsh reality of life and enter into a world of dreams and deepest emotions, which are embodied in the actors (of Chinese operas). This movie is a must see for all lovers of world cinema.
Chen Kaige's "Bàwáng Bié Jī" ("Farewell My Concubine" in English) is a
breathtaking look at the changes in 20th century China as seen through
the eyes of two friends. Opera performers Douzi (Leslie Cheung) and
Shitou (Zhang Fengyi) get to know each other in a Beijing orphanage in
the 1920s. They stay friends over the years, but then courtesan Juxian
(Gong Li) comes between them. The Cultural Revolution also complicates
This is one of the movies that I would recommend to anyone who wants to truly understand why China is like it is today (another is Steven Spielberg's "Empire of the Sun"). The impact that the Japanese invasion, the communist revolution, and then the Cultural Revolution have on these two men is beyond mind-blowing. The movie does not shy away from the disasters that the Cultural Revolution caused; I get the feeling that China's government was not too happy with the movie. But above all, it's important to understand how the world's most populous country (and likely dominant power of the 21st century) came to be what it now is. A very good movie.
Probably the most important parts of making an engaging film is having
strong characters (although there are exceptions). They don't have to
be particularly unique, but they are our window into the story, and
they give us the emotional investment we need to see them through to
the end. What makes "Farewell My Concubine" so emotionally stirring is
that the three characters in this film are people we know and
understand (if not always like), and who are swept up through years of
societal change and turmoil, and that's on top of the interpersonal
conflicts between them.
The film details the lives of two life-long best friends, Dieyi (Leslie Cheung) and Xiaolou (Fengyi Zhang). The two are "stage brothers," acting partners in the Chinese Opera. But then Xiaolou meets, and subsequently marries, a beautiful courtesan, Juxian (Gong Li). This angers Dieyi, who is gay and wants to be partners with Xiaolou on-stage and off.
All three of the performances are stunning. Leslie Cheung has the most complicated part, and he is superb. Dieyi is not a likable person; he's spiteful, arrogant, manipulative and traitorous, especially to those who like him. But he is a deeply conflicted character who has suffered so much at the hands of others that we can't help but feel for him. That's probably why we understand the compassion that Xiaolou, and surprisingly Juxian, have towards him. As Xiaolou, Fengyi Zhang has the least showy part (Xiaolou is more of a reactionary person), but Zhang gives the character the sense of individuality that he needs. Xiaolou has his own set of moral values, but with times changing so rapidly and dramatically, he's going to find out just how far he's willing to go to keep them. Then there's Gong Li, the international sensation who's been dubbed "The Asian Meryl Streep." As Juxian, she's almost like an older sister to the wayward Diyei; she doesn't like him, but offers him her support nonetheless (probably because of her love for Xiaolou, but you never know). She's stubbornly loyal; no matter how bad things go, she always sticks by those who are close to her.
Director Kaige Chen is an expert at developing his characters, but his storytelling needs a little work. There's a little too much subtlety here, and at times there seem to be missing pieces in the narrative (however small and insignificant they may be). Yet, these characters are richly developed, even the ones who seem small and unimportant, are all so compelling that Chen deserves much credit.
Emotionally complex and richly rewarding drama, "Farewell My Concubine" is a near-masterpiece of Chinese cinema.
My rating: Rated R for language, some strong violence and sexual content, and disturbing images.
This is the best movie Mr. Chen Kaige has made.I was totally hit by his amazing talent to make such a heavy film ,through the film he told us the Chinese Beijing Opera players'lives at different times in Chinese history, the feelings of them,their love, sad, happy,desperate,mad... The cinematography was perfect by Mr.Gu Changwei. I like his speciality very much,I think especially he is good at the red color when he is shooting,in this movie, the scene of Juxian's suicide is excellent,I think,her red wearing was the focus of the scene,by the music of "Red Lamp" arising,this scene was the best one in this movie.The story happened in the Cultural Revelotion times was very real,moving,and very heavy. Of course, this is one of the best movie made by Chinese.
I loved this film. Beautiful directing. Wonderful sets. And the acting
was amazing. I had no idea what a wonderful film this was when I rented
it. This film explores the relationship of two opera singers, a
relationship that is complicated by abuse, political turmoil,
corruption, and failed relationships/marriages.
The plot had enough twists and turns to keep me intrigued, and wondering what will happen next. This art-house film, like many of the genre, had excellent characters. The characters were well defined, unique, and surprising.
I highly recommend this film. It reminded me a lot of Raising the Red Lantern. Both beautiful films, but extremely sad as well. If you're interested in costumes or sets you should definitely check out Farewell My Concubine.
I am a huge movie buff and for my money this film gets top marks in every category I use to rate movies. I hate seeing a movie that leaves me with the feeling that I have seen it many times before in formulaic fashion. No worries here - This movie is COMPLETELY unique, unbelievably well made, has topnotch performances throughout and tells a compelling story. The opening and early scenes immediately arrest your attention and draw you in, you are never quite sure where it will go. In the end as the story becomes completely revealed I was left feeling a myriad of emotions with that certain sigh of contentment one experiences whenever encountering anything of outstanding quality! Movie making at it's finest!!!
also includes elements of religion (a reference to karma) and certainly
politics with the depiction of the cultural revolution (which would be
more appropriately called the cult revolution; it was cult worship of
chairman mao, but thats another story). Also includes lessons in
economics in that the living conditions of the young boys was the
result of their economic class, as well as that of other characters in
this remarkable film.
to fully appreciate the story you need to read up on Chinese history and culture in the 20th century, specifically the practice of keeping concubines, WW II and the Japanese invasion, Chinese opera etc. this work has something for everyone and at 170 minutes presents a well crafted work, very entertaining. I wish I knew Mandarin so I could more fully understand the nuances. the ending was brilliant, the only possible finale that ties the beginning of the film to the end.
I have an abiding hope that the Chinese will one day realize a dream as old as their land that they will be free from enslavement of all kinds. the introduction of private enterprise and the internet to China is a source of hope. I wonder if this film could be produced today in Hong Kong . ..
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