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Farewell My Concubine
China - 1993
Directed by Chen Kaige


Possibly one of the best epics of all time, Farewell My Concubine is a feast for the eyes and heart.  Spanning over 50 years, we follow the lives of two opera stars from their entry as young boys into the Peking Opera School in 1924 to their reunion in 1977.  The boys endure the rigorous and sometimes torturous training at the hands of Master Guan (Qi Lu) who molds their talents, preparing them for their life-long roles as a concubine and a king.  Douzi (Leslie Cheung), who's role is that of the Concubine, is conditioned to live as a girl in order to perfect his role.  He develops a romantic love for Shitou (Fengyi Zhang), who can only return a fraternal love, choosing instead the beautiful Juxian (Gong Li), a prostitute that becomes his wife, driving Douzi into deep despair. 

The traditions of the Peking Opera are artfully presented, providing glorious sets and costumes. The survival of the opera company depends on its traditions.  When the Cultural Revolution visits its purge on the opera, Shitou denounces Douzi as a homosexual, who then denounces Juxian as a prostitute.

Director, Chen Keige must surely have found this part of the story a catharsis.   Born in 1952, he experienced the Cultural Revolution first hand, having denounced his own father in 1966, at the age of 14, an act that he regrets to this day.  His father (Chen Huaikai), a film-maker, was sentenced to hard labor for several years.   Chen Huaikai was Art Director of this film. 

The Peking Opera lives to enjoy better days and so do our two opera stars.  The epic tale is so deftly interwoven with the intimate story of the characters that one can not fail to find beauty in this film. Farewell My Concubine won a Golden Palm at the Cannes Film Festival (1993), as well as Best Foreign Language Film from the Golden Globes(1994) and the Los Angeles Film Critics Association(1993).  Gong Li won a Best Supporting Actress Award from the New York Film Critics Circle (1993).

Runtime:  2 hours 38 minutes


Guest Comments

From: "?"

"A masterfull production from a premier 5th Generation Director of the Bejing Film Academy. Additional to its brillant performances, Kaige's film uniquely explores an alternate view of China's history."


From:  "Sheila"

"This was one of the most visually beautiful and emotionally intense films I have ever watched. Evoking a world that most Westerners can have no real understanding of, or connection to. Wonderful."


From: "major pain"

"The movie is great and exciting! The actors are so expressive and artistic! The movie really deserved the honors that it had received from the past."

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