Farewell My Concubine | Chicago Reader

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Like Gone With the Wind, Chen Kaige's 1993 blockbuster—half a century of contemporary Chinese history (1925-'77) seen through the lives of two Peking Opera actors and a former prostitute—is worth seeing largely for its pizzazz: riveting performances, epic sweep and storytelling, bold and melodramatic use of color, and a capacity to generalize suggestively about large historical events. But this approach has limitations. The rather gingerly treatment of a lead character's homosexuality, while somewhat taboo breaking for a big-budget Chinese production, tends toward inscrutability, and the emphasis on violence in the early opera-training sequences sometimes has the effect of inflated rhetoric. Nevertheless, this is entertaining filmmaking on a grand scale. With Leslie Cheung, Zhang Fengyi, and Gong Li; adapted by Lilian Lee and Lu Wei from Lee's best-selling novel. Despite having protested the Chinese censor's cuts, the distributor Miramax induced the director to cut 14 minutes from the U.S. prints, making this 155-minute version even shorter than the censored one.

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