Bawang bie ji

Bawang bie ji

Farewell my concubine

DVD - 1999? | Chinese
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Story that spans more than 50 years in the lives of two men at the Peking Opera, friends since childhood, and the woman who comes between them. Also an absorbing drama of the period in Chinese history from the warlord era through the Cultural Revolution.
Publisher: Burbank, Ca. : Buena Vista Home Entertainment/Miramax Home Entertainment, [1999?]
ISBN: 9780788816109
Branch Call Number: DVD DRAMA Fare
Characteristics: 1 videodisc (172 min.) : sd., col. ; 4 3/4 in.
Alternative Title: Farewell my concubine


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Dec 07, 2014

Using the tumultuous friendship between two stage performers to illustrate fifty years of Chinese history, Kaige Chen’s sweeping epic is as intimate as it is grand. First linking up in 1924 as students at a rather austere Chinese Opera school, the quietly effeminate Douzi and his boisterous counterpart Shitou begin a hesitant relationship despite the differences in their demeanours. They eventually make a name for themselves in the Beijing opera circuit, their close yet chaste offstage partnership reflected onstage with Douzi (now renamed Dieyi) forever playing the faithful mistress to Shitou’s (now called Xiaolou) noble Chu king in the popular opera Farewell My Concubine. But Xiaolou’s budding romance with a local prostitute (the luminous Gong Li) will not only test his loyalties to Dieyi and the stage, but forever alter the course of everyone’s life in the process. Weathering some of modern China’s most turbulent times, from the external horrors of the Japanese occupation to the greater internal horrors of Mao’s Cultural Revolution, the two “stage brothers’ ” constant clashes, shifting allegiances, and various betrayals come to represent the fractured sociopolitical mindset of their homeland right up to the film’s heartbreaking denouement as the two men, now on in years, reprise their famous roles to an empty house. Filled with lush widescreen images awash in reds and gold against the cacophonous bang and clash of Chinese Opera, Chen’s love for the art of cinema (as well as an abiding sympathy for the suffering of artists) is evident in every frame. Running just under three hours his masterful film unfolds with a composed patience, each scene imbued with layers of meaning whether it be a brainwashed mob shouting revolutionary rhetoric or an abandoned pair of silk slippers softly underscoring a greater tragedy. Deeply human and overtly political (which is probably why it didn’t receive the Oscar it rightfully deserved) Chen’s masterpiece is a sterling example of cinema’s ability to transport and transform.

Froster Nov 29, 2014

When was the last time you saw a 20th century historical epic whose pivotal character is a professional drag queen? That alone makes this picture worth the price of admission. However, there are a lot of other notable things about this--a spectacular turn by Leslie Cheung in the aforementioned role, glorious art direction, a celebration of explicit male-male romance (not sex), and the always sublime Gong Li, who is either the Bette Davis or Garbo of China, (which depends upon your cultural values). It is also unafraid to take on the seamier or more brutal aspects of recent Chinese history, and NO period is spared, least of all the Cultural Revolution. In that way it reminds one of Zhang Yimou's "To Live", but it is far less prosaic, far quirkier in its point of view, and actually more panoramic. See it.


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brodnyc10023 Sep 25, 2011

There's a reason this has won so many awards. It's such a tragic story; extremely moving.


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