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Pavilion of Women
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Reviews & Ratings for
Pavilion of Women More at IMDbPro »

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36 out of 42 people found the following review useful:

Director/producer should have read book

Author: connorblake from Canada
28 January 2002

Am I the only one out here who read 'Pavilion of Women'? This film took a great book and what would have been a fantastic female role and turned them both into porridge. In the book, the relationship between Brother Andre and Madame Wu was that of a wise teacher and a brilliant pupil until, literally, the day he died: it wasn't until that day that she realized that she loved him. Pavilion of Women is not a 'romance': it is the awakening of a woman to her own humanity, and, through the transforming power of love, to the humanity of others, whom she has previously regarded only as problems to be solved or duties to be performed. To turn it into a 'romance' is an insult to the author, Pearl Buck, who, for the record, did not write Harlequin-level trash, and the audience, who would have been quite capable of understanding the story as it was originally written. Whoever's responsible for foisting this 'dumbed-down' mess on the universe should be ashamed of themselves.

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17 out of 21 people found the following review useful:

Missionary Drama

Author: dromasca from Herzlya, Israel
14 December 2002

Director Ho Yim's movie is based on a novel of Pearl Buck. 60-70 years ago, this writer's books were cross-cultural best sellers, bringing to the US and Western audiences the image of the Far East which soon will have become part of the daily lives, when WWII broke. The film story line has all the elements of the time - melodrama, clash between the Western and Chinese traditions, and a missionary message which is probably the most problematic part of the movie.

However, this is a good movie. Certainly, we have seen much better and original ones, coming directly from China without the intervention of the Hollywood producers. Having the film spoken in English may have won some US audiences, but certainly lowers the credibility. However, the filming is exquisite, the historical background is very well re-created, and the acting is fabulous. Is this really Luo Yam's first or second role? This is what IMDB's information says, I simply cannot believe it. She is giving an Oscar level performance, and I am certainly flattering some of the ladies who won feminine role Oscars lately.

Worth seeing. 8/10 on my personal scale.

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13 out of 18 people found the following review useful:

A touching love story

Author: cotu from Bistrita, Romania
19 February 2003

Somehow I always feel that Willem Dafoe and the films he starrs in are drastically underrated. It is also the case for this exceptional movie set in pre-comunist China. A simple, touching story about tradition and the constrains that it sometimes brings.

The plot outline is simple. When Ailin turns 40, she decides it is time to retire from her husband's bed, the rich Mr. Wu. In order to do so, she finds a second wife, a woman that would take her place and pleasure the oral-sex-obsessed Mr. Wu. But the young new wife has trouble adapting to her role and the old pervert is not satisfied with her. Meanwhile, Ailin befriends her son's teacher, an American priest named Andre (Willem Dafoe). From here on, the story develops in various directions but I don't want to spoil it for you.

Very good acting and directing on a classical subject.

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8 out of 9 people found the following review useful:

Hollywoodish love story -- light years from Pearl Buck's book

Author: Carolyn Bloomer (cbloomer@Ringling.EDU) from U.S.
6 June 2008

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Pavilion of Women was billed by People's Daily, China's official newspaper, as the "first Chinese-made Hollywood film", and indeed was jointly produced with Universal Pictures, and shot in both English and Chinese.

If you never read the book, and come to this movie cold, and accept it as a Hollywood-style romantic epic melodrama set in 1930s China, then you probably won't be disappointed – especially if you know nothing about Chinese society at the time. The film has high production values and compelling narrative elements in terms of western values that heroicize transgression: the irresistible romantic attraction between a Chinese wife and Western priest transgresses both social and religious propriety; the attraction between Chinese son and his father's concubine transgresses generational lines.

The problem is that the film is a contemporary love story masquerading as an historical drama that seeks to accrue legitimacy by referencing Pearl Buck's novel of the same name. The entire plot, the setting, the characters, their motivations, and their interrelationships are all utterly at odds with Buck's novel. The filmmakers took Buck's thoughtful story of a women's personal spiritual and philosophical odyssey in the context of traditional family relationships, and transformed it into a fairly ordinary story of physical and material lust to which is lent false importance through the crutch of sensational scenes of fire and war, and the pathos of orphaned children. Buck must be turning over in her grave.

The movie is set in Suzhou (rather than in an area remote from the war); it has omitted characters (two of the four brothers, one of their wives, and Fengmo's wife), changed the personality of every major character (Mr. Wu, Madame Wu, Andre); and created events that never occurred in the book (the orphanage fire, the Japanese invasions), manufactured encounters that would have been impossible in Chinese society of the time (e.g. conversations and meetings between Madame Wu and Andre, between Fengmo and Qiuming), and falsified the very social structure and gender relations that the novel sought to critique and explore.

The mutilations are legion, and surface right away, in the first moments of the film – even before the credits. 1) In the movie bringing in a concubine is presented as the mother-in-law's idea whereas in the book it was Madame Wu's idea for freeing herself from childbearing (which makes Mr. Wu's fixation on oral-sex in the movie pure lasciviousness). 2) In the book, Madame Kang's birth difficulty occurs many months after Madame Wu's birthday and follows a series of conversations between the women about age and births. 3) In the book the priest Andre plays absolutely no part in Madame Kang's birth crisis; instead Madame Wu commandeers Mr. Kang to assist in the birth as a way of demonstrating to him the consequences of his sexual appetite so that he will leave her friend alone. Madame Wu emerges the hero, but the movie makes the white male the hero (surprise!). 4) The movie presents Mr. Wu as a domineering husband, whereas in the novel he is actually quite compliant and loving and resistant to the idea of a concubine. 5) In the book the concubine's arrival in the Wu household is discreetly maneuvered – not proclaimed with a wedding, and absolutely not publicly revealed as a face-losing surprise to Mr. Wu. 6) The necklace in the movie is complete fabrication. The only thing Qiuming (correct transliteration for "autumn brightness") brings with her to the Wu household is the embroidered jacket in which she was swaddled as a foundling -- in the novel this later leads to a reuniting of Qiuming and her daughter (where is the daughter in the movie?) with her birth mother (the movie just sends her off all alone on a boat with some silver coins). 7) The novel's Andre was born in Italy, not the U.S., had a full beard, and was hired to teach foreign languages to Fengmo. It would have been prohibited for Qiuming to participate; even Madame Wu herself had to eavesdrop from another room. Because of the domestic and social controls on interaction between the sexes, the conversations and encounters in the movie could never have taken place. 8) The orphans in the book are all girls (basically only daughters are abandoned). And 9) in the book no one was directly involved with the army, the Communist Party, or the Sino-Japanese War.

There are many, many more discrepancies, and I could go on and on about them. But suffice it to say that this movie should not have been given the name of the novel; and indeed, the title makes no sense in the context of the film. The movie should have been given a different name so that it could stand on its own merits instead of cheapening Buck's literary work and inviting the kind of harsh criticism I have felt compelled to give here.

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18 out of 29 people found the following review useful:

Silly and obvious

Author: rosscinema from United States
2 September 2002

I could not believe how lousy this film was and I tried to think why. Well its co-made by China and a United States film studio and I think thats where the trouble lies. Its americanized. No original angle or aspect into the chinese people. All the characters are one dimensional and act on the most basic of emotions. Only actress Luo Yan has a few decent moments but the rest is all hokey nonsense. It plays out like a mediocre mini-series and I kept expecting one of two things to happen. Either Richard Chamberlain was going to stumble in OR the characters were going to burst into song and sing "Getting to Know You". The last half hour is so overly dramatic that it puts daytime soaps to shame. Bad filmmaking!

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8 out of 10 people found the following review useful:

Very enjoyable, very beautiful to see.

Author: Stephen Roat from Creemore Ont. Canada
18 March 2002

Very enjoyable. Perhaps flawed but very beautiful. The acting quality from character to character was uneven but most of the principals were outstanding. The sets and cinematography were very pleasing to the eye. The story was more like we would see a few years ago when offbeat tales were not mostly told to shock but to enlighten. I hope Yan Luo will have the opportunity to present another story and I hope we will see her in more pictures soon.

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7 out of 10 people found the following review useful:

A Wonderful Epic Romance of Forbidden Loves in Traditional China

Author: Claudio Carvalho from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
4 August 2003

In 1938, Ailian (Yan Luo) is the forty years old wife of a wealthy man, Mr. Wu (SheK Sau), who belongs to the traditional Wu Family in China. In order to get rid off her sexual obligations with her husband, Ailian gives Chiuming (YI Ding), a very young concubine to him. Andre (William Dafoe) is an American priest and doctor who takes care of an orphanage and becomes the tutor of her eighteen years old son Fengmo Wu (John Cho). Father Andre starts giving classes to Fengmo, Ailian and Chiuming. Then, two forbidden loves will rise: between the priest and the first wife, and between the son and the concubine, having the invasion of China by the Japanese in a big picture.

Summarizing this wonderful epic romance is not fair: it seems that this movie would be a soap opera. But it is not. This Chinese-American production is indeed a romantic drama, dealing with forbidden loves in an old and traditional China and involving different cultures. The screenplay, photography and soundtrack are very beautiful. The cast and direction are sharp. A worthwhile movie that deserves to be watched more than once. My vote is nine.

Title (Brazil): "Pavilhão de Mulheres" ("Pavilion of Women")

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5 out of 7 people found the following review useful:

Culturally revealing but shy of high marks

Author: davidscruggs from Atlanta, GA
8 February 2002

The story and set behind Pavilion of Women were grist for a powerful movie. It's about an American priest (Willem Dafoe) running an orphanage in Asia who becomes entangled with a proud Chinese family's tugs of war over love and duty. While Pavilion is engaging enough to keep you awake, it didn't project any of the majesty of greater love-versus-duty romances that come to mind. Its characters cried, but not amid enough conveyed tragedy for its viewers to join in sympathy. Dafoe seemed to absorb his role, but not wholely, for soft-spoken and even-keeled as Dafoe can be, the priest in this movie would have been better portrayed by someone as unknown in the U.S. as the movie's Chinese cast members, whose anonymity aided their credibility and certainly carried the show. There are several wonderfully intense scenes that might even take you back to a love-struck moment in your past. The cinematography gave me pans of the city and garden life now and then, but it left me wishing it had lingered on Asia's beauty and austerity long enough to arouse a connection in me with these people living in 1930s China.

I wouldn't say give it a swerve, because the performances of the local cast was often great. But neither would I recommend making it a late-night movie, if you want to see it before nodding off.

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7 out of 11 people found the following review useful:

- a fine example of cross-cultural co-production

Author: gt-14 from Canberra, Australia
14 September 2002

Anyone who liked Zhang Yimou's "Raise The Red Lantern" is a prospect for "Pavilion Of Women". Whereas "Raise The Red Lantern" explores the breaking of merely Chinese cultural taboos, "Pavilion Of Women" centres on a romance between leading characters who flout both Chinese and Western mores. This is a cross-cultural romantic story by the prolific American writer on China, Pearl S. Buck, set in the late 1930s. It has first class cross-cultural direction and acting, and was filmed on location in elegant settings of old Suzhou. It is a fine example of what the Chinese film industry can achieve in co-production.

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6 out of 10 people found the following review useful:

All love stories end in tragedy

Author: MisterWhiplash from United States
28 May 2001

Pavilion of Women is a romantic drama about tradition in a Chinese family that is started to get shacked up by a generous priest (Willem Dafoe) and his American ideas and ideals. From what the plot says, it sounds like a corny movie, and at times it is laying it on a little thick (the score by Conrad Pope and the ending add to the sometimes lameness). But the film is also well done with fine performances, notably by Dafoe who turn in yet another remarkable performance. B+

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