Farewell My Concubine, based on the novel by Pik Wah Lee
A different version of this note and thoughts on other books are available at:
- https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLEVa4_CsRStSBBDo4uJWT8BSWtTTn0N1E and http://realini.blogspot.ro/
Farewell My Concubine is a mesmerizing movie.
You can find it on the New York Times ‘Best 1,000 Movies ever made list:
It won the most important award in cinema-in my view:
- The Palme d’Or
And some cherries on top:
- The Golden Globe and BAFTA for Best Foreign Film and other coveted prizes
Farewell My Concubine is a compelling story
And the audience does not feel it is about three hours long.
The heroes are Cheng Dieyi and Duan Xiaolou, with an important part to play for Juxian, after the first quarter of the film.
Dieyi would be “the leading role” and he is the concubine from the title, even if his sexual orientation is not 100% clear.
- Not for me anyway
- He could be homosexual- probably- but he might as well be transgender, or something else- bisexual??
It is attested today that people are born with a sexual orientation or another, even if there would be fundamentalists that deny that…
And climate change, that the world is older than the bible says- it was created in more than seven days and so much more.
In the case of Dieyi, the childhood experiences have had a major role and an impact difficult to assess on his personality.
His mother was a prostitute and she decides to give the boy to this school or academy that trained opera singers.
Here I have a qualm and have noticed a certain paradox that could be explained by the importance of the actors…
The teacher, when he receives the child says something like:
- You know, prostitutes and actors are despised in equal measure
- Only later we can see that the stars of the opera are actually worshipped, but I guess it is just the celebrities
The boys are beaten and in the case of Dieyi, they assign him the role of the concubine in an important Chinese work.
Therefore he has to learn by heart lines that state at a certain point that he was “born a girl”, but he makes a mistake.
That is punished severely and that school looks more like the training camp in Full Metal Jacket or films in that line.
At another moment, the teacher is pleased because the boy does not know anymore – is he a girl or a boy- which means he is perfect for the part.
In the background and also at center stage, we have the various important moments of Chinese history of the twentieth century- with the republic, then the occupation by the Japanese and the escape of the nationalists to Taiwan- I personally prefer that country and recognize it to the communist dragon- and finally the arrival of the communists and their “cultural revolution” and abuses…
Throughout, Dieyi is not just committed to his friend- that he loves, probably has desires for- but he also risks his integrity and commits acts that he does not want in order to get Xiaolou out of trouble when the Japanese take him in, for instance.
Juxian, who was initially a prostitute, complicates the dynamic and the love triangle makes for an interesting development.
Dieyi hates his rival and the two compete up to the moment(s) where they have to cooperate to save the man they both love.
This is indeed a miraculous work.