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"Farewell, My Concubine" is a movie with two parallel, intertwined stories. It is the story of two performers in the Beijing Opera, stage brothers, and the woman who comes between them. At the same time, it attempts to do no less than squeeze the entire political history of China in the twentieth century into a three-hour time-frame.Written by
Michael Kim <email@example.com>
Leslie Cheung was The first Hong Kong actor who acted in a mainland China film. See more »
In the streets on the eve of the Communist takeover (1948), Dieyi and Xiaolou watch the chaos unfold while seen between them in the background is Master Zhang the Eunuch. The next shot reveals Master Zhang sitting across the street from them. See more »
The following footage was deleted from the USA version:
After Laizi's death, Douzi and Shitou mourn next to the coffin. We see the coffin being carted away. (1:24)
We see Douzi being carried atop the servant's back to Old Man Zhang's quarters (0:09)
During the "deflowering scene" with Old Man Zhang, after the woman leaves, until Zhang says "Come here." Douzi urinates into a vase, as the old man looks on, getting quite excited. (0:21)
After Cheng and Duan are accosted by rioting students, after the photo session. They are being carted through the streets on handcarts. Na Kun is following, on foot. They discuss first the student revolutionaries, and then the incident at Old Man Zhang's house, which is now a coffin shop. Dieyi mentions that he was there the day before; Na conjectures that he was probably looking for the sword. (0:51)
After Cheng and Duan meet Yuan Shiqing for the first time, and Cheng is presented with jewelry. Brief dialogue as Yuan and then Duan leave the room. (0:19)
After Cheng and Duan argue in the makeup room, right before Juxian leaves the House of Blossoms. Juxian watches a performance of "Farewell". (0:55)
After Cheng and Duan argue during the "engagement" scene, right before Cheng tucks the baby Xiao Si into bed. Yuan presents Cheng with an elaborate pheasant headdress in his dressing room. (0:51)
After Japan's march into Beijing, right before Duan gets into a fight with the Japanese. Another opera scene, dealing with drink. Also one line of dialogue as Juxian applies Duan's makeup. (1:31)
Scene of Cheng singing to Japanese continues, right before Duan is released. Interior shots, Cheng holding a fan. Music, and applause. (0:47)
More graphic detail in the bloodletting scene.
Brief shot of Duan caressing Juxian's cheek, right after Cheng and Yuan makeup scene.
After our first glance of Cheng smoking opium, right before Cheng and Duan visit their old teacher. Cheng steps out of his home, smoking and looking quite listless. He chokes as a car passes. Then we see Juxian showing a group of Duan's friends to the exit of their home, recovering money that her husband has lent them. Juxian complains that Duan doesn't have a real job; Duan responds that all he can do is sing, and Juxian has forbidden that. Juxian mentions that Duan and Cheng's old teacher wants to see them; Duan says that he is too ashamed to face him. (2:02)
After Juxian visits Cheng in his cell, just before trial. Beginning of the trial dialogue cut, where Peking Opera is described as "pornographic music", and the formal charges of collusion with the Japanese Officer, Aoki, are described. (0:43)
Later, in the same trial scene, after Na's "testimony", Yuan objects to the idea of Peking Opera as "pornographic music". (1:01)
After the communists march into Beijing, Cheng and Duan are performing "Farewell" to an audience of communist troops. The troops do not respond, and then break into a patriotic song afterwards. Xiao Si seems to take to their philosophy. This scene cuts into what seems to be one large crowd scene in the U.S. release -- everything depicting Xiao Si (the foundling) skipping through the streets of Beijing comes after this scene. (1:52)
After Juxian's suicide, and before we cut to the present day, we get a short scene where the traitorous Xiao Si seems to get his due. He is sitting alone with the case of jewelry given Cheng by Yuan, and singing from "Farewell". Behind him, communist troops begin to file in, and Xiao Si is startled to see them in the mirror. One of them approaches and hands him what seems to be some sort of summons. (1:11)
I finally got a chance to see "Farewell my Concubine." I'd been anxious to see it since its initial release in 1993. It surprised me in its depth and technical skill.
Three points make this film outstanding. The first is the technical skill of the director and the luscious taste of the director of photography. The entire film is a feast for the eyes, taking full advantage of elaborate costumes and exotic locations. The second strength is in the actual storytelling. The plot is a fascinating tragedy, it feels almost Shakespearean. The acting is nothing short of incredible. Some of China's finest actors demonstrate their ability to carry a story that covers 52 years. Normally, these two strengths alone would be reason enough to see a film, but "Farewell my Concubine" succeeds in satisfying one more category (the bain of any epic): historical accuracy.
"Farewell my Concubine" is exceptionally accurate in portraying the monumental changes that were sweeping China at the time. The film doesn't just treat these events as background events, but drags them right into the plot and pins the characters into their surroundings. This is interesting when you consider that the story takes place in the Peking Opera, not the most likely place for these events to have effect. Instead, as we see the new China emerge, we watch these vestiges of old society fall, and the work of all involved make this transition an achievement to behold. The power of this film was not missed by Chinese censors who banned, removed, and then banned the film again several times over -debating whether or not its artistic brilliance was worth subversive portrayals of suicide and homosexuality. Unlike "The Last Emperor," this film was made by Chinese film makers and is in tune with its subject. I recommend this film highly!
As one last note, the version I saw was a DVD containing the original 170 minute version of the film, in its wide-screen splendor. From what I understand, the shorter versions released internationally deleted and shortened some opera scenes for fear that they would be lost on Western audiences. Having no prior experience with any Peking Opera, I found the scenes fascinating and integral to appreciating the entire story. Spend the extra time if you can.
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