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M. Butterfly (1993)

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.



(play), (screenplay)

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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


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 | 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:

1.37 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


Peter Weir passed on the chance to direct. See more »


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


Song Liling: Why, in Chinese theater, are women always played by men? Because only men know how women should act.
See more »

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User Reviews

Sometimes love knows no gender
24 May 2011 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

Or, conversely, love doesn't know the gender it loves.

Jeremy Irons and John Lone star in "M. Butterfly," based on the hit play by David Henry Hwang. In the mid-'60s, while the cultural revolution is going on in China, French Vice Consul Phillipe Bouriscot (Irons) falls in love with a singer, Song (John Lone), who performs with the Bejing opera. He believes Song to be a woman. And, like the story of "Madame Butterfly," there is love, there is betrayal, and there is humiliation.

As unbelievable as this story might be, it's based on a true one. The film doesn't go into how this fantasy was actually executed physically, but in point of fact, in real life, the character played by Irons believed he had gotten Song pregnant. Odd but true.

David Cronenberg does an excellent job with this dark, mysterious film, and the actors are terrific, each character hooked on this fantasy in his own way. The end of the film is haunting.

Well worth seeing.

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