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

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
...
Judge
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Storyline

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) »

Genres:

Drama | History | Romance

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

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

Parents Guide:

 »
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Details

Country:

Language:

Release Date:

1 October 1993 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

M. Baterflaj  »

Filming Locations:

 »

Box Office

Gross:

$1,499,795 (USA)
 »

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Color:

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Antony Parr's final film. See more »

Goofs

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

Quotes

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 »

Connections

Referenced in 8 ½ Women (1999) See more »

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User Reviews

 
Revenge, Love and Betrayal in all their Majesty
20 December 2014 | by (United Kingdom) – See all my reviews

David Cronenburg brings this Eastern tale of love and betrayal from stage to screen in a 1993 film adaptation. Basic gist, a diplomat (Irons) is obsessed with the local opera in 1940s China, and falls head over heels for a lead singer (Lone), believing him to be a woman due to ignorance of the gender roles in Chinese theatre. However, this 'Butterfly' uses this to squeeze French Government secrets out of the hopeless diplomat for the 'Reds'.

Perhaps a little condensed from its original form, and not as visceral as Cronenburg's more famous works, 'M. Butterfly' still provides a well-produced and emotional tale of love, belief & deception. The key driving force of the film is really our two leads, with Irons being predictably solid as the typical middle class man of the era, though Lone is easily the bigger revelation. He is able to play both genders rather convincingly, and if I held up a picture of him to you without telling you who it is, you'd swear it was a woman. It's a combination of great make-up work and Lone's rather underrated skill to fully embrace the mannerisms of his role (see my praise of his work on 'Iceman' for more), playing up the submissive and ethereal qualities often tied to Oriental women, that make this performance so effective.

Everything else is par for the course: Cronenburg is a slick director and keeps the film trundling along at a good pace, the production values are lovely and give you the full scope of a changing China, and Howard Shore's score is suitably moving yet also enigmatic and does incorporate Puccini's 'Madam Butterfly' in at points, mainly towards the end. However, it's the script itself that does fall a little short: it's paced a little too quickly, and some scenes feel really condensed and choppy just to accommodate a film runtime, especially with regards to the relationship between our two leads, as well as the bigger changes in China. It some times feel a little to quick, and doesn't quite have the emotional punch it wants to. It's not bad, just a little deflated.

Despite that, I was pleasantly surprised by what is one of Cronenburg's lesser known titles, and it's worth checking out as a curio and for some great performances.


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