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Farewell My Concubine(霸王别姬)

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China, Hong Kong · 1993
Rated R · 2h 46m
Director Chen Kaige
Starring Leslie Cheung, Zhang Fengyi, Gong Li, Jiang Wenli
Genre Drama

Abandoned by his prostitute mother in 1920, Douzi was raised by a theater troupe. There he meets Shitou and over the following years the two develop an act entitled "Farewell My Concubine" that brings them fame and fortune. When Shitou marries Juxian, Doutzi becomes jealous, the beginnings of the acting duo's explosive breakup and tragic fall take root.

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What are people saying?

Zoe Rogan Profile picture for Zoe Rogan

Wow! An epic and ornate story of Beijing opera and Chinese history during the 20th century. Queer cinema icon Leslie Cheung is fabulous as the tragic hero of the film, and it's devastating and magnetic to watch the rise and fall of Cheung's character, along with his stage brother and unrequited love.

What are critics saying?


Time Out by

Appropriately operatic, Chen's visually spectacular epic is sumptuous in every respect. Intelligent, enthralling, rhapsodic.


Variety by Derek Elley

A seductively lensed but emotionally uninvolving drama about two male Peking Opera stars and the ex-prostie who comes between them, Chen Kaige's fourth feature, Farewell to My Concubine, reps a stylistic U-turn compared with his earlier abstract parables like Life on a String and Yellow Earth.


Washington Post by Desson Thomson

Like Cheung's ethereally plaintive voice, the movie is a siren song that's appealing at first, but held too long. It becomes an increasing whine.


Chicago Reader by Fred Camper

This film's extraordinary unity of style, theme, and plot is what sets it apart from the superficial historical epic. Behind all the color, movement, and elaborate decor of this "commercial" film lies an exceptionally taut structure.


Washington Post by Hal Hinson

It's a lovely film, but a little inert. It reaches its high point with glorious close-ups of the children. From there, it's all downhill.


ReelViews by James Berardinelli

No film can ever hope to convey the complex mosaic of cultural upheaval caused by everything that happened between 1924 and 1977, but Farewell My Concubine does an excellent job presenting samples of the flavor while telling a story that is both epic and intimate.


Boston Globe by Jay Carr

Thanks to Chen's eye and the strong central performances, Farewell My Concubine comes together with historical resonance and stirring, full-blooded sweep. [29 Oct 1993, p.51]


Austin Chronicle by Marjorie Baumgarten

Director Chen and screenwriters Lilian Lee and Lu Wei (based on Lee's original novel) create a tapestry of detail woven with visual spectacle, historical saga and human drama. At over 2 1/2 hours running time, Farewell My Concubine is both too brief and too luxurious.


Chicago Sun-Times by Roger Ebert

Farewell My Concubine is a demonstration of how a great epic can function. I was generally familiar with the important moments in modern Chinese history, but this film helped me to feel and imagine what it was like to live in the country during those times.


The New York Times by Vincent Canby

A vastly entertaining movie. It's also one of such recognizably serious concerns that you can sink into it with pleasure and count it a cultural achievement.

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