Farewell My Concubine
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Cheung plays an emotionally tormented character, Douzi, who was raised in a strict and often brutal Beijing opera school. The film follows Douzi from childhood to adulthood. Cheung gave an emotional and moving performance. The other actors in the cast, Gong Li (the beautiful and talented actress who starred in "Raise the Red Lantern" and "Temptress Moon"), and actor Zhang Fengyi also gave outstanding performances.
Since Cheung's recent death, director Chen Kaige has said Leslie Cheung IS the character he played in "Farewell My Concubine." There is a hint of sadness mixed with helplessness and charisma surrounding Cheung's character. The dramatic and chilling ending moved me. I highly recommend this film to not just fans of Chinese cinema, but to all audiences who can appreciate a beautifully acted, well scripted, and brilliantly shot film.
The performers are all male, and training for the young boys is harsh. Apprentices start in early childhood. They are beaten often for such infractions as forgetting their lines. They are forced to kneel for hours holding up buckets water. They are stretched into split positions in torturous agony. And yet, as we follow the story of two of these young boys, we come to understand that this horrible treatment resulted in classically trained performers, some of whom rose to great fame.
This is the story of two young orphan friends, Dousi and Shitou, played by three sets of actors depicting their childhood, then adolescence, then adulthood (and cast so well that it really seemed like the same actors growing up). Dousi is more delicate and excels in the role of the concubine. Shitou is more robust and always plays the king in "Farewell My Concubine" which is a classic Chinese opera. It's easy to see that Dousi is in love with Shitou but Shitou favors women and marries a the lovely Juxian, who he meets in a brothel. Immediately, there's a love triangle.
All this is set against the backdrop of first the Japanese invasion, then the Nationalist Army and then the Communists. The characters suffer through all this and adapt and struggle. There are horrible moments, especially when they renounce each other during the cultural revolution. My emotions were touched by their plight because I really felt I knew each of these people.Read more ›
The movie's main character, Cheng Dieyi, is the person most impacted by loss of identity, though it is also experienced by the other main characters as well. From the castration/mutilation inflicted on him by his mother at the beginning to his eventual suicide, it's as though layer by layer of his being is slowly peeled away. Let me for a moment simply regurgitate the way in which this happened.
Cheng Dieyi was born as a prostitute's son. From the very beginning, he would be considered a bastard child in almost every culture. His mother claims that he is getting in the way of her "business" at the local brothel and she seeks a way to be rid of him. She winds up taking him to a local acting troupe and when they refuse to take him because of his sixth finger on one hand, Dieyi's mother cuts it off. This can easily be seen as the act of castration. Then his identity is further stripped away by the acting troupe drilling it into his head that he is a woman, since he plays a woman in the theater. From this point on, he associates his lost masculinity with his best friend, Duan Xiaolou. However, even his friendship is taken away when Xiaolou becomes involved with-guess who-a prostitute. It should be apparent to all who see it, that the hatred he feels toward the prostitute, Ju Xian, is not only because she is taking away his confidant, but also because she reminds Dieyi of his mother. Like many people confronted with loss of identity, Dieyi seeks an avenue of escape by doing drugs.Read more ›
... so why am i writing this here? i don't write reviews often, but astonished as i was that there were reviewers who actually gave this film a rating of less than 5 stars, i decided to sift through all the entries and find out exactly what they had against this film... and not so surprisingly, the negative reviews came from westerners who thought that they might know better about chinese culture and history from reading books that other westerners have written than the chinese directors and scriptwriters themselves who've lived their entire lives in china, hong kong, and taiwan. -_-"...
is this film really that violent, really that gory? graphically, there is virtually no violence on screen... c'mon, hollywood is all blood and guts! that which disturbs and unsettles the viewer here is the psychological violence and perversion that chen so subtly (yet very effectively) communicates. and i'm sorry to shatter your ideas of the orient being an exotic paradise of incense, tiger balm, and petite women, but yes, psychological perversion can exist in a culture that has been around for over five thousand years. yes, eunichs did exist aplenty, and yes, these poor things did tend to have strange sexual interests, and no, you don't know nearly enough about chinese history to even begin placing things into context and making judgements.
... one reviewer was even kind enough to remind us not to let our children watch the film for the violence and the unsettling themes involved...Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
A superb film! I was most esp. moved by Leslie Cheung's performance.Published 3 months ago by Joyce Amen
Stunning, devastating, heartbreaking and very educational........that is this film and then some. I cannot call this an easy view or an escapist film, but it has so many attributes... Read morePublished 4 months ago by P. L. Anderson
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