Saturday, May 16, 2020

Farewell My Concubine

Movie Name: Farewell My Concubine
Year of Release: 1993
Director: Chen Kaige
Starring: Leslie Cheung, Fengyi Zhang, Li Gong, You Ge, Da Ying, Han Lei, Qi Lu, Di Tong, Zhi Yin
Genre: Drama
Score out of ten (whole numbers only): 8 
View Trailer

Synopsis and Review:
"Farewell My Concubine" has a somewhat rare feat of being a Palm D'Or Winner, alongside another feature, in this case, Jane Campion's wonderful "The Piano" (another case of a double win occurred in 1979 with Francis Ford Coppola's "Apocalypse Now" and Volker Schlondorff's "The Tin Drum"). The film follows the story of two young boys in China, who are brought to a Peking opera troupe. Douzi is indoctrinated to think of himself as a girl, since he'll be playing female roles, while his best friend Shitou, will be playing the lead male roles. Douzi initially attempts to run away, but ultimately decides to pursue the acting path seriously after witnessing a famous opera master. As years go by, Douzi and Shitou become Peking opera stars under stage names Cheng Dieyi and Duan Xiaolou, respectively. Whereas Dieyi loves Xiaolou romantically, the latter one marries a beautiful courtesan by the name of Juxian. As the wars and the communist regime alter the Chinese society, so do their lives and allegiances change, with tragic consequences.
Chen Kaige followed the beautiful "Life on a String" with "Farewell My Concubine", who went on to win several accolades and be featured on the list of the best films of the year. What is so remarkable about this film, is the way it narrates the story of two individuals, from their troublesome childhood, all the way through their adult years, while also surfacing the rituals of the Chinese society and how they change throughout the years. It's a film simultaneously epic in scope, but also narrowly focused on the trio of characters which inhabits it: the two best friends, and the woman whom one of them loves, and ultimately causes the rift in the relationship. The director engrossingly depicts the arduous process of becoming a skilled performer, alongside all the sacrifices and brutality the performers have to endure in order to become successful. It's also a view into certain political regimes, ones that are intrusive and ultimately destructive. The trio of central performers is fantastic, particularly the late Leslie Cheung and Li Gong. The cinematography from Gu Changwei is stunning as are the costumes from Changmin Chen. A wonderful film always worth revisiting.