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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?


The Chinese opera being performed by Song near the beginning is called "Gui Fei Zui Jiu", aka "The Drunken Concubine", aka "Yang Gui Fei Gets Tipsy". See more »


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


Song Liling: Please come back. My audiences miss the white devil in their midst.
See more »


Referenced in Lolita (1997) See more »

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User Reviews

A flawed but fascinating film.
14 August 2002 | by (Perth, Australia) – See all my reviews

Of all the David Cronenberg movies I have seen 'M. Butterfly' is my least favourite, but that's certainly not to say that it is entirely worthless. Despite some flaws and a few dead spots it is still quite a fascinating film. One of the oddest things about this movie is that despite its general feeling of unbelievability it is based on a true story. Cronenberg adds to this by deliberately casting the rather butch John Lone, rather than a more obviously androgynous actor (ala 'The Crying Game', a movie this is often compared to). This makes the story more confronting and less comfortable, and also one assumes, closer to the actual facts of the case. Jeremy Irons, who was robbed of an Oscar in Cronenberg's previous 'Dead Ringers', is outstanding as usual, Lone (still mainly known for 'The Last Emperor') isn't as good, but still fine, and the supporting cast includes a nice turn from Brit veteran Ian Richardson ('Dark City'). Most Cronenberg fans will probably find this a bit difficult to get into, as the material isn't exactly typical of the director, but it's much better than its bad press makes out. I expected to hate it, and I didn't.

21 of 31 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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