Pavilion of Women
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This 2001 adaptation of the novel is set in 1937 and was filmed in China and partially financed by the Beijung Film Studios. The Chinese actress Yan Luo not only stars as Madame Wu, but also helped write the screenplay and produce the film. She's beautiful and stately and gives a fine performance. Willem Dafoe is cast as a village priest who runs a local orphanage. They are attracted to each other and the inevitable happens. But that is only part of what the story is about. Basically, it's about the oppressive world of the old-fashioned traditional Chinese family. And the future promise of communism. I read the book a long time ago and don't remember such a strong emphasis on communism. But this film is, after all, produced from a modern Chinese point of view.
Many critics hated this film, called it too slow and too romantic. And all of them objected to the fact that the characters spoke English. I usually would agree with all those objections. It IS an overblown soap opera after all. However, I found watching this film a delight. I loved the opulent world of pre-communist China that I remember so well from Pearl Buck novels, including the acceptance of the concubine. And I liked the fact that the bedroom scenes were much more explicit than what was hinted at by Pearl Buck. I just relaxed and let myself be part of this fantasy world for a little while. And even though the film was a full two hours long, I never was bored.
Taste is personal, of course. And even though I can't understand why I enjoyed Pavilion of Women so much, I do recommend it.
The characters are the same in name, only. I don't understand why the screenplay had to deviate so greatly. Mr. Wu went from being a happily married man (who, by the way, did not want a concubine to begin with) to an opium depraved sex-aholic bent on receiving as much oral sex as possible by whatever means possible. Why was there a need to color this man with such depravity?
The beauty of the book lies in the richness of the allegories that Pearl Buck so intricately wove into the story. Mrs. Wu's love for Father Andre was the love of his spirit and being. It was who the man was and not what he was physically made of. Father Andre was Christ-like in his devotion to his calling in China. There was never any hint of a sexual attraction to Mrs. Wu.
The recent adaptation of "Mansfield Park" came to mind when I watched this movie. Another disastrous attempt to adapt a classic and beloved book to today's morally vacant mind-set. After watching both of these movies I felt violated and betrayed.
I read Pavilion of Women about 10 years ago and I still remember the plot and characters of the novel. I love it so much. I was skeptical when I rented the movie because I was afraid the movie couldn't keep up, but I was wrong. Even though reading the novel will give you intimate details, the movie entertained as well.
In this film Madame Wu is degraded to a woman who is not remarkable about anything and who is illuminated and brought to the path of "civilization" by Brother André, the advanced US American (in the book he was an Italian priest). Pearl S. Buck's approach, which she preached throughout most of her books, that different nations and cultures ought to learn from one another is eroded here through the blatant superiority of the US American, the hero, the selfless saviour, neglecting among other things the fact that he later seduces Madame Wu to adultery and thus breaks his own oath of celibacy.
Madame Wu's husband is nothing but the typical brutal macho no woman would want to be married to, while his son Fengmo and his second wife Ch'iuming are the romantic, unhappy couple separated by convention and which can only find together thank to the intervention of the wise US American, thus leaving the evil Chinese conventions behind them. And where, by the way, are their other three sons and their wives, which gave the book its title? I guess the authors couldn't find clichés that would have fitted to them.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I have been in love with Willem Dafoe ever since I saw this.Published 13 months ago by Sharon Mcdaniel
If ou know anything about China during the war you will really like this. War, love, brutality, all go to form a great story. Willem Dafoe great as usualPublished 20 months ago by AJ
good movie the book is much better, but I had to watch the movie after I read the book...... arrived on time ...thank you!Published 23 months ago by Amazon lover
I love the movie so much I bought the book. The book is totally different from the movie as are a lot of movies. Ms. Buck was an excellent writer. Easy to read. Read morePublished on October 31, 2013 by Bill Poston
Wonderful movie, enjoyed watching it and will so again. It is now a permanent video in my collection. I always enjoy watching movies based on the works of Pearl Buck.Published on December 24, 2011 by shrnrae
It was fascinating to see China through the eyes of someone who loved the land, the culture and the people. Read morePublished on November 4, 2011 by random reader
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