This year, the Chinese epic FAREWELL MY CONCUBINE shared Best Film honors at the Cannes Film Festival and is now floating across the United States on a wave of critical praise. The film spans fifty years of a stormy three-way relationship and is set against an agitated backdrop of repeated cultural upheaval. The film’s title is the name of a popular Chinese opera, the tale of the defeated and doomed King of Chu, whose loyal Concubine Yu chooses to stay with him until his bitter, suicidal end. The operatic roles have been played for decades by two men, Cheng Dieyi and Xiaolou, who have become close friends. Poor Dieyi identifies so deeply with the concubine–physically, emotionally and sexually–that he blows a fuse when Xiaolou decides to marry a local prostitute, Juxian.
Though it was surely not the filmmakers’ intention, FAREWELL MY CONCUBINE has created a nightmarish vision of a despairing culture in which God has been shunned for centuries. While accomplished in technique, this film ultimately presents a two and a half hour grating vision of a land devoid of compassion kindness or basic decency. Numerous beatings (including several children) and endless abuse on both societal and personal levels, make this an unwise viewing choice for the discerning viewer, and absolutely inappropriate for children.
(H, Ho, LL, VVV, SS, NN, A/D) Humanism; 11 obscenities & 12 profanities; multiple beatings, cruel mistreatment of children, boy's finger cut off (not shown directly), child hangs himself, multiple beatings of adults during wartime & revolution, & several adults shot by firing squad; child molestation implied & homosexual relationships implied; brief rear nudity of children & brief adult nudity (involving a married couple, seen behind a gauze curtain); and, alcohol & opium use, the latter producing full-blown addiction & withdrawal.