Farewell My Concubine (film)

Farewell My Concubine (film)

:"This article is about the film; for other media with the same title, see Farewell My Concubine."Infobox_Film
name = Farewell My Concubine

caption = Movie poster Cannes Film Festival
director = Chen Kaige
producer = Hsu Feng
writer = Lilian Lee (also novel) Lei Bik-Wa Lu Wei
starring = Leslie Cheung Zhang Fengyi Gong Li
music = Zhao Jiping
cinematography = Gu Changwei
editing = Pei Xiaonan
distributor = Miramax Films
released = flagicon|USA 15 October, 1993
runtime = 171 min.
language = Mandarin
budget =
amg_id = 1:131112
imdb_id = 0106332|

"Farewell My Concubine" (zh-stpl|t=霸王別姬|s=霸王别姬|p=Bàwáng Bié Jī|l=(the) Hegemon-King Bids Farewell to (his) Concubine) is a 1993 Chinese film directed by Chen Kaige which depicts the effects of various Chinese political turmoils during the 20th century on a Peking opera troupe.

The film is one of the central works of the Fifth Generation movement that brought the Chinese film directors of that period to world attention. [Paul Clark, Reinventing China, p. 159; Zha, China Pop pp. 96-100. -] Like several other Fifth Generation films, "Farewell My Concubine" explores the effect of China's turbulent political landscape during the mid-20th century on human lives. In this case, the lives are those of two Peking opera performers and the woman who comes between them.

The film is an adaptation of the novel by Lilian Lee.


In 1977, the year after the end of the Cultural Revolution, two men in Beijing Opera costumes, one in a female role, the other as a stage king, enter the performance hall and are greeted by a voice off camera -- they haven't performed in seven years -- and a single spot light falls on them.

The scene, now shot in sepia, cuts to 1924. A woman walks hurriedly with a small child in her arms through a crowded Chinese market. A man tries to speak to her but she roughly pushes him off as he shouts,"Whore!" A crowd is watching a troupe of boys from a Beijing opera training school perform for coins in the street, supervised by their aging director, Master Guan. One of the boys, Laizi, tries to run away, and the crowd is insulted. One of the troupe, Shitou [Stone] , shames the crowd by breaking a stone on his head, as the crowd cheers.

The mother takes the boy to the troupe house but Master Guan refuses him because of a birth defect, a superfluous finger. The mother runs to a knife peddler. As the child whimpers that his hands are freezing, the mother covers his eyes then cuts her son's extra finger off. She signs the contract with his thumb print in blood and leaves without a word.

Shitou welcomes him as "Douzi" [Bean] . Laizi, craving freedom and candied crab apples, and Douzi escape but return after seeing an opera performance that makes Douzi weep and ask how he can become such a star. As Master Guan brutally beats Shitou for allowing their escape, Laizi hides to eat his crab apples. Douzi walks to the beating bench to accept his punishment. Master Guan begins to beat him mercilessly, but Douzi never screams though Shitou begs him to say he is sorry. Shitou charges the master but the assistant yells for the master to come: Laizi has hanged himself.

Douzi attaches himself to Shitou and is trained to play female roles. He practices the monologue "Dreaming of the World Outside the Nunnery," but when he is to say, "I am by nature a girl, not a boy" he instead says "I am by nature a boy..." The monologue comes from the kunqu "The Record of an Evil Sea," "kuhai" (the Evil Sea) being a Buddhist term for a life of sorrow. Shitou learns the jing, a painted-face male lead. [http://www.illuminatedlantern.com/cinema/review/archives/farewell_my_concubine.php]

When the famous theatrical agent, Na Kun, a Manchu, visits the troupe, Douzi is brought out to recite his bravura role, but he says again "I am by nature a boy," and the agent begins to leave. With the future of the troupe at risk, Shitou twists a tobacco pipe into Douzi's throat until he gargles in his own blood. Suddenly there is a soft whisper of, "I am by nature a girl... not a boy."

Jump cut to Douzi in full costume at an elaborate stage in front of a large audience in an elaborate private pavillion of the aging Eunuch Zhang, who admires him and his talent. Douzi and Shitou, sing the famous duets and the audience roars.

After their performance, the two and are summoned for an audience with Eunuch Zhang. Shitou admires a beautiful sword in Zhang's collection, stating that if he were emperor Douzi would be his queen. Douzi says that one day he hopes to give Shitou a sword like that. The boys are told Douzi is to meet Zhang alone.

Douzi walks in on the old man in a lascivious embrace with a young girl. Douzi is afraid as the man eyes him up and down. He wishes to find Shitou because,"I have to pee." The old man brings a glass dragon jar, tells him to pee, stares in lusty amazement at the boy's body, and reaches for him. Douzi tries to flee but Zhang pushes him to the ground. Hours later he emerges, and Shitou can not get him to say a word. On their way home, Douzi spies a baby abandoned in the street. Master Guan urges Douzi to leave the baby, saying "we each have our own fate, or yuanfen, but Douzi takes him in and eventually trains him.

Douzi and Shitou become stars of Beijing opera and take on the stage names Cheng Dieyi, now played by Leslie Cheung, and Duan Xiaolou, now played by Zhang Fengyi. The adult Dieyi is in love with Xiaolou, but the sexual aspects of his affection are not returned. When they become a hit in Beijing, a patron, Yuan Shiqing, played by Ge You, slowly courts Dieyi. Xiaolou, in the meantime, takes a liking to Juxian, played by (Gong Li), a headstrong courtesan at the upscale House of Flowers. (Although she is later accused of being a "prostitute", she was somewhat more elevated than Dieyi's mother in the first part of the film). Xiaolou intervenes when a mob of drunk men harass Juxian and conjures up a ruse to get the men to leave her alone, saying that they are announcing their engagement. Juxian later buys her freedom and, deceiving him into thinking she was thrown out, pressures Xiaolou to keep his word. When Xiaolou announces his engagement to Juxian, Dieyi and Xiaolou have a falling out. Dieyi calls her "Pan Jinlian," a "dragon lady" from the novel Golden Lotus. Dieyi takes up with Master Yuan, who gives him Zhang's sword. Master Guan shames them into re-forming the troupe.

The complex relationship between these three characters is then tested in the succession of political upheavals that encompass China from the onset of the Second Sino-Japanese War. The film also follows the fates of Na Kun, who turns his theater troupe over to the new government after 1949, and the abandoned baby, who is trained in the female roles. He is called "Xiao Si", or "Little Fourth Brother", which has the same sound as "little death." They go through Japanese Occupation, Kuomintang regime, Liberation in 1949, as the People's Liberation Army enters the city, and the Cultural Revolution in which the traditional opera is attacked as feudal. The portrayal of these events led the film to be initially banned in China.

Use of Beijing Opera

Running through the film is the Beijing opera also known as "Farewell My Concubine". The opera becomes Dieyi and Xiaolou's staple act and scenes from it are performed throughout the film.

The events in the film parallel the play. The opera concerns the loyalty of the concubine Yu Ji to the King of the state of Chu after Liu Bang, soon to found the Han Dynasty has defeated him. The transition to Han Dynasty rule parallels the transition to the People's Republic of China. The Concubine's fatal devotion to her doomed emperor is echoed by Dieyi's devotion to Xiaolou. At one point in the film, Xiaolou snaps to Dieyi, "I'm just an actor playing an emperor. You really are Yu Ji."

Miramax edited version

At the Cannes Film Festival, the film was awarded the highest prize, the Golden Palm Award. Miramax Films mogul Harvey Weinstein purchased the distribution rights and removed ten minutes. This is the version seen in U.S. theaters (and also in the U.K.) According to Peter Biskind's book, "Down and Dirty Pictures: Miramax, Sundance and the Rise of Independent Film", Louis Malle, who was president of the Cannes jury that year, said: "The film we admired so much in Cannes is not the film seen in this country (referring to the U.S.), which is twenty minutes shorter - but seems longer because it doesn't make any sense. It was better before those guys made cuts."

Most of the cuts were not long extended scenes, but rather a minute or so from many different scenes. [http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0106332/alternateversions]

The uncut film has been released by Miramax on DVD, and is the original 171-minute version.

Awards and nominations

*National Board of Review (USA), 1992
**Best Foreign Film
*Cannes Film Festival, 1993
**Palme d'Or - tied with Jane Campion's "The Piano" from New Zealand (1993)
**FIPRESCI Award for Best Film in Competition
*BAFTA" (British Academy Award), 1993
**Best Film not in the English Language
*Mainichi Film Concours, 1993
**Best Foreign Language Film
*Golden Globe Awards, 1993
**Best Foreign Language Film
*Los Angeles Film Critics Association, 1993
**Best Foreign Film
*Boston Society of Film Critics Awards, 1993
**Best Foreign Film
*Chinese Performance Art Association, 1993
**Special Award - Leslie Cheung
*New York Film Critics Circle Awards, 1993
**Best Supporting Actress - Gong Li
*Political Film Society, USA, 1993
**Special Award
*International Film Festival of the Art of Cinematography (Camerimage), 1993
**Silver Frog - Gu Changwei
**Golden Frog - Gu Changwei (nominated)
*65th Academy Awards, 1993
**Best Foreign Film (nominated)
**Best Cinematography - Gu Changwei (nominated)
*César Awards, 1994
**Best Foreign Film
* Japanese Critic Society, 1994
**Best Actor Award for Foreign Movie - Leslie Cheung

ee also

*Cinema of China
*Cinema of Hong Kong



Clark, Paul. "Reinventing China: A Generation and Its Films". Hong Kong: The Chinese University Press, 2005.

Zha, Jianying. "China Pop : How Soap Operas, Tabloids, and Bestsellers Are Transforming a Culture". New York: New Press : Distributed by W.W. Norton, 1995.

Further Reading

Braester, Yomi. "Farewell My Concubine: National Myth and City Memories." In "Chinese Films in Focus: 25 New Takes", edited by Chris Berry, 89-96. London: British Film Institute, 2003.

Kaplan, Ann. "Reading Formations and Chen Kaige's Farewell My Concubine." In Sheldon Lu, ed., "Transnational Chinese Cinema: Identity, Nationhood, Gender". Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1997.

Larson, Wendy. "The Concubine and the Figure of History: Chen Kaige's Farewell My Concubine." In Sheldon Lu, ed., "Transnational Chinese Cinema: Identity, Nationhood, Gender". Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1997; also published as "Bawang bieji: Ji yu lishi xingxiang," Qingxiang (1997); also in Harry Kuoshu, ed., Chinese Film, ed. Bloomington: University of Indiana Press, 2000.

Lau, Jenny Kwok Wah. "'Farewell My Concubine': History, Melodrama, and Ideology in Contemporary Pan-Chinese Cinema." "Film Quarterly" 49, 1 (Fall, 1995).

Lim, Song Hwee. "The Uses of Femininity: Chen Kaige's Farewell My Concubine and Zhang Yuan's East Palace, West Palace." In Lim, "Celluloid Comrades: Representations of Male Homosexuality in Contemporary Chinese Cinemas". Honolulu: University of Hawai'i, 2006, 69-98.

Lu, Sheldon Hsiao-peng. "National Cinema, Cultural Critique, Transnational Capital: The Films of Zhang Yimou." In "Transnational Chinese Cinema", edited by Sheldon Lu, 105-39. Honololu: University of Hawaii Press, 199.

McDougall, Bonnie S. "Cross-dressing and the Disappearing Woman in Modern Chinese Fiction, Drama and Film: Reflections on Chen Kaige's Farewell My Concubine." "China Information" 8, 4 (Summer 1994): 42-51.

Metzger, Sean. "Farewell My Fantasy." "The Journal of Homosexuality" 39, 3/4 (2000): 213-32. Rpt. in Andrew Grossman, ed. Queer Asian Cinema: Shadows in the Shade. NY: Harrington Press, 2000, 213-232.

Xu, Ben. "Farewell My Concubine and Its Western and Chinese Viewers." Quarterly Review of Film and Television 16, 2 (1997).

Zhang, Benzi. "Figures of Violence and Tropes of Homophobia: Reading Farewell My Concubine between East and West." "Journal of Popular Culture: Comparative Studies in the World's Civilizations" 33, 2 (1999): 101-109.

External links

*imdb title|id=0106332|title=Farewell My Concubine
* [http://www.illuminatedlantern.com/cinema/review/archives/farewell_my_concubine.php A film review with emphasis on the relationship between the play and the film]
* [http://bbs.ent.163.com/bbs/zhangguorong/42176801.html Photo of Farewell To My Concubine Art Exhibition in Japan]

###@@@KEY@@@###succession box
title=Palme d'Or
tied with "The Piano"
before="The Best Intentions"
after="Pulp Fiction"
succession box
title=Golden Globe for Best Foreign Language Film
succession box
title=BAFTA Award for Best Film Not in the English Language
before="Raise the Red Lantern"
after="To Live"

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Farewell My Concubine — may refer to:* Farewell My Concubine (play), a Peking Opera * Farewell My Concubine (novel), a novel by Lilian Lee * Farewell My Concubine (film), a film by Chen Kaige, based on the novel by Lee * Farewell My Concubine (musical), a Japanese… …   Wikipedia

  • Farewell My Concubine (play) — Farewell My Concubine is the common English title of a famous Chinese Peking Opera. A more accurate translation of the Chinese title is Hegemon King says Farewell to his Queen . [William Dolby, Eight Chinese Plays from the Thirteenth Century to… …   Wikipedia

  • List of film director and actor collaborations — Film directors frequently choose to work with the same actor or actress across several projects. Such collaborations may span years or even decades. The following list has been alphabetized by the director s last name. A *Jim Abrahams / Lloyd… …   Wikipedia

  • 1993 in film —             List of years in film       (table) … 1983 .  1984 .  1985 .  1986  . 1987  . 1988  . 1989 … 1990 1991 1992 1993 1994 1995 1996 …  …   Wikipedia

  • Adieu ma concubine — Données clés Titre original 霸王别姬 (Bawang bieji) Réalisation Chen Kaige Acteurs principaux Leslie Cheung Zhang Fengyi Gong Li Sortie 1993 …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Adieu Ma Concubine — (Ba wang bie ji) est un film chinois de Chen Kaige, sorti en 1993. Sommaire 1 Synopsis 2 Commentaires 3 Fiche technique 4 Distribution …   Wikipédia en Français

  • The Big Parade (1986 film) — The Big Parade Directed by Chen Kaige Written by Gao Lili Starring Wang Xueqi Guan Qiang Lei Lu Sun Chun Music by Z …   Wikipedia

  • 1993 New York Film Critics Circle Awards — 59th New York Film Critics Circle Awards January 16, 1994 Best Picture: Schindler s List The 59th New York Film Critics Circle Awards honored the best filmmaking of 1993. The winners were announced on 15 December 1993 and the awards were given on …   Wikipedia

  • New York Film Critics Circle Awards 1993 — 59th New York Film Critics Circle Awards January 16, 1994 Best Picture: Schindler s List The 59th New York Film Critics Circle Awards honored the best filmmaking of 1993. The winners were announced on 15 December 1993 and the awards were given on …   Wikipedia

  • American Beauty (film) — American Beauty Theatrical release poster Directed by Sam Mendes …   Wikipedia

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”

We are using cookies for the best presentation of our site. Continuing to use this site, you agree with this.