Farewell My Concubine (1993) - Rotten Tomatoes

Farewell My Concubine (1993)

Farewell My Concubine



Critic Consensus: Chen Kaing's epic is grand in scope and presentation, and, bolstered by solid performances, the result is a film both horrifying and enthralling.

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Movie Info

Until Farewell, My Concubine (Ba Wang Bie Ji), not many people were aware that most members of the Peking Opera were originally orphans or illegitimate castaways with nowhere else to turn. Such is the case of the film's protagonists, Duan Xiaolou (Zhang Fengyi) and Cheng Dieyi (Leslie Cheung), two homeless outcasts, trained from childhood in the grueling rigors of the Opera by master Lu Qui. The film traces the 52-year friendship between Xiaolou and Dieyi, a friendship pockmarked with fiery conflicts and tender reconciliations. Though the delicate Dieyi specializes in female roles and the gutsy Xiaolou plays noble warriors, theirs is an essentially heterosexual relationship; still, when Xiaolou takes upon himself a prostitute bride (the magnificent Gong Li), Dieyi is as petty and jealous as an outcast mistress. Farewell, My Concubine holds the viewer in thrall from start to finish; as such, it is thoroughly deserving of its many international film awards and nominations. Surprisingly, this worldwide success was something of a flop in its home country of China; perhaps it hit too close to home for those viewers who'd lived through the same years so painstakingly recreated in the film.more
Rating: R
Genre: Drama, Romance, Musical & Performing Arts, Art House & International, Classics
Directed By:
Written By: Lillian Lee, Lilian Lee, Lu Wei
In Theaters:
On DVD: Dec 14, 1999

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Leslie Cheung
as Cheng Dieyi
Fengyi Zhang
as Duan Xiaolou
Li Gong
as Juxian
Qi Lü
as Guan Jifa
Da Ying
as Na Kun
You Ge
as Yuan
David Wu
as Red Guard
Li Chun
as Xiao Si (as a teenag...
Lei Ha Man-zhang
as Xiao Si (as an adult...
Tong Di
as Xiao Si (as an adult...
Ma Mingwei
as Douzi (as a child)
Yin Zhi
as Douzi (as a teenager...
Fei Yang
as Shitou (as a child)
Zhao Hailong
as Shitou (as a teenage...
Qi Lu
as Master Guan
Show More Cast

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Critic Reviews for Farewell My Concubine

All Critics (35) | Top Critics (11)

The scenes in the Peking Opera School, where boys are caned for doing wrong or right, are no less horrifying than the later tableaus of public humiliation at the hands of the Maoists.

Full Review… | August 12, 2008
TIME Magazine
Top Critic

This is entertaining filmmaking on a grand scale.

Full Review… | August 12, 2008
Chicago Reader
Top Critic

Seductively lensed but emotionally uninvolving.

Full Review… | May 21, 2008
Top Critic

Chen's remarkable movie uses an unusual love triangle to telescope more than 50 years of tumultuous Chinese history.

Full Review… | April 7, 2008
Top Critic

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

Full Review… | January 26, 2006
Time Out
Top Critic

One of those very rare film spectacles that deliver just about everything the ads are likely to promise.

Full Review… | May 20, 2003
New York Times
Top Critic

Audience Reviews for Farewell My Concubine


Letitia Lew
Letitia Lew

Super Reviewer


The story of China joining the modern age seen through the lives of two principal performers of the Beijing Opera. Cruel, majestic, courageous, sweeping, and glorious, this is not to be missed. Of course, the singing can only be an acquired taste, but this is still about the story, magnificently told.

Kevin M. Williams

Super Reviewer

This sprawling epic depicts the friendship of two Chinese opera stars amidst the tumultuous Twentieth Century history of China.
What a grand film with beautiful art direction and cinematography to match. But the real highlights are the the two stars, Leslie Cheung and Fengyi Zhang who give tour de force performances. Their interaction is real and fraught with all the history the film depicts, which is no small matter; approximately fifty years of history are crammed into the film's three hours. Many of the scenes are built on subtlety and subtext with hinting looks and knowing glances, and lesser actors would not have been able to convey the nuances of the characters.
I have to trust in the film's verisimilitude when it comes to the opera scenes, which are occasionally too long and not as compelling as the off-stage troubles the actors create and are victim to. These sequences are educational, exposing Western viewers to Chinese opera, an area of performance most of us aren't accustomed to seeing.
Overall, Farewell, My Concubine is a remarkable achievement and a world-widening experience.

Jim Hunter

Super Reviewer

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