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When a leprous winery owner in 1930s China dies a few days after his arranged marriage, his young widow is forced to run the winery to make a living while contending with bandits, her drunkard lover, and the invading Japanese army.
"Farewell, My Concubine" is a movie with two parallel, intertwined stories. It is the story of two performers in the Beijing Opera, stage brothers, and the woman who comes between them. At the same time, it attempts to do no less than squeeze the entire political history of China in the twentieth century into a three-hour time-frame.Written by
Michael Kim <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Ranked number 12 non-English-speaking film in the critics' poll conducted by the BBC in 2018. See more »
In the streets on the eve of the Communist takeover (1948), Dieyi and Xiaolou watch the chaos unfold while seen between them in the background is Master Zhang the Eunuch. The next shot reveals Master Zhang sitting across the street from them. See more »
The following footage was deleted from the USA version:
After Laizi's death, Douzi and Shitou mourn next to the coffin. We see the coffin being carted away. (1:24)
We see Douzi being carried atop the servant's back to Old Man Zhang's quarters (0:09)
During the "deflowering scene" with Old Man Zhang, after the woman leaves, until Zhang says "Come here." Douzi urinates into a vase, as the old man looks on, getting quite excited. (0:21)
After Cheng and Duan are accosted by rioting students, after the photo session. They are being carted through the streets on handcarts. Na Kun is following, on foot. They discuss first the student revolutionaries, and then the incident at Old Man Zhang's house, which is now a coffin shop. Dieyi mentions that he was there the day before; Na conjectures that he was probably looking for the sword. (0:51)
After Cheng and Duan meet Yuan Shiqing for the first time, and Cheng is presented with jewelry. Brief dialogue as Yuan and then Duan leave the room. (0:19)
After Cheng and Duan argue in the makeup room, right before Juxian leaves the House of Blossoms. Juxian watches a performance of "Farewell". (0:55)
After Cheng and Duan argue during the "engagement" scene, right before Cheng tucks the baby Xiao Si into bed. Yuan presents Cheng with an elaborate pheasant headdress in his dressing room. (0:51)
After Japan's march into Beijing, right before Duan gets into a fight with the Japanese. Another opera scene, dealing with drink. Also one line of dialogue as Juxian applies Duan's makeup. (1:31)
Scene of Cheng singing to Japanese continues, right before Duan is released. Interior shots, Cheng holding a fan. Music, and applause. (0:47)
More graphic detail in the bloodletting scene.
Brief shot of Duan caressing Juxian's cheek, right after Cheng and Yuan makeup scene.
After our first glance of Cheng smoking opium, right before Cheng and Duan visit their old teacher. Cheng steps out of his home, smoking and looking quite listless. He chokes as a car passes. Then we see Juxian showing a group of Duan's friends to the exit of their home, recovering money that her husband has lent them. Juxian complains that Duan doesn't have a real job; Duan responds that all he can do is sing, and Juxian has forbidden that. Juxian mentions that Duan and Cheng's old teacher wants to see them; Duan says that he is too ashamed to face him. (2:02)
After Juxian visits Cheng in his cell, just before trial. Beginning of the trial dialogue cut, where Peking Opera is described as "pornographic music", and the formal charges of collusion with the Japanese Officer, Aoki, are described. (0:43)
Later, in the same trial scene, after Na's "testimony", Yuan objects to the idea of Peking Opera as "pornographic music". (1:01)
After the communists march into Beijing, Cheng and Duan are performing "Farewell" to an audience of communist troops. The troops do not respond, and then break into a patriotic song afterwards. Xiao Si seems to take to their philosophy. This scene cuts into what seems to be one large crowd scene in the U.S. release -- everything depicting Xiao Si (the foundling) skipping through the streets of Beijing comes after this scene. (1:52)
After Juxian's suicide, and before we cut to the present day, we get a short scene where the traitorous Xiao Si seems to get his due. He is sitting alone with the case of jewelry given Cheng by Yuan, and singing from "Farewell". Behind him, communist troops begin to file in, and Xiao Si is startled to see them in the mirror. One of them approaches and hands him what seems to be some sort of summons. (1:11)
A lavish, opulent, and intense film; bring your lunch
As far as story and content goes this owes more than a little to The Last Emperor (1987), which is not surprising since Director Kaige Chen was a member of the cast of that film and no doubt was influenced by its success. But stylistically, and especially as the film was directed and cut, "Farewell, My Concubine" is original and stands alone. If The Last Emperor was a Western movie about the Chinese political experience in the Twentieth Century, then Farewell, My Concubine is a Chinese movie, influenced by the West, about that same experience. While the former focused on the emperor and those around him, "Farewell..." focuses on two actors of the Beijing opera. Admittedly, "Farewell..." is long (I saw the 157-minute version) and sometimes strays from it intent, but gains and maintains power and keeps our interest mainly because everything is presented in a starkly-lit, intensely focused manner. The epic-like story itself is good if a little pedestrian at times. The lavish and stunning sets in opulent color and design, are just fascinating to view. Everything from the extras in the crowds to the porcelain for tea is carefully chosen and presented. Particularly striking are the traditional costumes and makeup, shown to advantage through the fine camera work. But what makes the film is the glimpse we get of the world of the Beijing opera and its traditions. From the Dickensian boy's school for the actors to the intrigues with patrons and the political powers that be, there's the sense of a world beyond our experience. The acting was also excellent. The beautiful Gong Li, who played Duan's wife was captivating as she displayed a wide range of emotion. Leslie Cheung as Dieyi, "the concubine," and Fengyi Zhang as Duan, "the king," were also excellent. The boys who played the actors as children, especially the actor who played Douzi, were first rate.
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