M. Butterfly (1993)

R  |   |  Drama, History, Romance  |  1 October 1993 (USA)
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Ratings: 6.8/10 from 6,484 users   Metascore: 43/100
Reviews: 41 user | 27 critic | 19 from Metacritic.com

In 1960s China, French diplomat Rene Gallimard falls in love with an opera singer, Song Liling - but Song is not at all who Gallimard thinks.



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Cast overview, first billed only:
Annabel Leventon ...
Shizuko Hoshi ...
Richard McMillan ...
Embassy Colleague
David Hemblen ...
Intelligence Officer #1
Damir Andrei ...
Intelligence Officer #2
Antony Parr ...
Intelligence Officer #3
Margaret Ma ...
Song's Maid
Tristram Jellinek ...
Defense Attorney
Philip McGough ...
Prosecution Attorney
David Neal ...


During the Cultural Revolution in China in the mid-1960s, a French diplomat falls in love with a singer in the Beijing Opera. Interwoven with allusions to the Puccini opera "Madama Butterfly", a story of love and betrayal unfolds. Written by Michael C. Berch <mcb@postmodern.com>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Plot Keywords:

china | opera | spy | betrayal | 1960s | See All (21) »


Drama | History | Romance

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for sexuality and a brief bloody sequence | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:





Release Date:

1 October 1993 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

M. Baterflaj  »

Filming Locations:


Box Office


$1,499,795 (USA)

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


David Cronenberg loved the play so much that when he heard a movie was being made about it, he volunteered immediately to direct it. See more »


The word accordion is misspelled "accordian" in the closing credits. See more »


Song Liling: The Oriental woman has always held a certain fascination for you Caucasian men. Is that not true?
Rene Gallimard: Yes, but that fascination is imperialist, or so you tell me.
Song Liling: Yes, it is always imperialist. Sometimes... sometimes it is also mutual.
See more »


Referenced in Lolita (1997) See more »

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User Reviews

Stranger Than Fiction
3 February 1999 | by See all my reviews

M Butterfly is a remarkably compelling film, even though the premise has been spoiled. I think it is David Cronenberg's best film overall. Dealing with the same issues as in Farewell, My Concubine, such as the state of Chinese theater during the revolution, M Butterfly is easier to understand and more involving. Farewell, My Concubine made me want to not care about the history involved because it was just too much to think about at one time, not being previously aware of it. However, M Butterfly explains the setting in a way that has no minimum education requirement. Foremost though, the characters created by Jeremy Irons and John Lone are intricate, conveying their deep commitments to their country and to their own heart, in Song and Rene's cases respectively. However, being familiar with the opera is an advantage to understanding a few complications in the plot. Plus, the ending is daring and dramatic. In real life, however, the person who the character Rene is based on is still alive and I saw an interview with him on ABCNews and just knowing that this man actually thought that he had gotten this other man pregnant makes the movie even more intriguing. This movie does not really delve into how that could have been, physically or psychologically, but it does make subtle inferences. Just the knowledge that the premise is not merely incredulous movie fantasy is enough reason for inquiring minds to give this beautiful film a try.

22 of 39 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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