Kaige's film charts the course of a unique romantic triangle that would even give Frank Borzage pause, following the relationship of two boyhood friends over half a century of turbulent Chinese history. After being abandoned by his prostitute mother at the Beijing Opera training school, young Douzi (Ma Mingwei as a child, Yin Shi as a teen, and Leslie Cheung as an adult) soon makes friends with the cocky Sitou (Fei Yang as a child, Yin Zhi as a teen, and Zhang Fengyi as an adult), and they both provide emotional support for the other as they undergo the grueling and pitiless opera school training that finds them, as adults, as the female and male role stars of the Beijing Opera. However, at the height of their fame, Sitou (now known as Duan Xiaolou) announces his intent to marry the sex-bomb prostitute Juxian (Gong Li). Douzi's (now known as Cheng Dieyi) obsessive jealousy and immediate dislike for Juxian leads him into the creepy arms of opera patron Yuan (Ge You) and to seek solace in opium-induced stupors. As the years pass and the old friends became increasingly estranged, they are finally, during the Gang of Four years, forced to publicly denounce each other as counter-revolutionaries. The result is humiliation and tragedy.
Continue reading: Farewell My Concubine Review
Overlong and overwrought, our heroes (played by Leslie Cheung and Fengyi Zhang during their adult years) find themselves undergoing the torture of opera training during the 1920s, find fame and fortune on the eve of the Japanese occupation during WWII, find themselves outcast as traitors following the communist revolution in the 1960s, and try to make a comeback as a kitschy nostalgia play in 1977. Zhang takes the butch role of the king in the titular opera, while Cheung plays like a girl. Bisexuality is hinted at, never shown. Beatings are plentiful, as is that semi-off-key Chinese operatic warbling (which, I might add, gets old after 2 1/2 hours...)
Continue reading: Farwell My Concubine Review
The BBC drama starring Aidan Turner returns to BBC One on September 4th.