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Ba wang bie ji (Farewell My Concubine)

Ba wang bie ji (Farewell My Concubine) (1993)

tomatometer

88

Average Rating: 7.4/10
Reviews Counted: 33
Fresh: 29 | Rotten: 4

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

82

Average Rating: 7.2/10
Critic Reviews: 11
Fresh: 9 | Rotten: 2

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

audience

93

liked it
Average Rating: 4.1/5
User Ratings: 15,661

My Rating

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

Dec 14, 1999

Miramax

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All Critics (34) | Top Critics (11) | Fresh (29) | Rotten (4) | DVD (3)

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.

August 12, 2008 Full Review Source: TIME Magazine
TIME Magazine
Top Critic IconTop Critic

This is entertaining filmmaking on a grand scale.

August 12, 2008 Full Review Source: Chicago Reader
Chicago Reader
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Seductively lensed but emotionally uninvolving.

May 21, 2008 Full Review Source: Variety
Variety
Top Critic IconTop Critic

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

April 7, 2008 Full Review Source: Newsweek
Newsweek
Top Critic IconTop Critic

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

January 26, 2006 Full Review Source: Time Out
Time Out
Top Critic IconTop Critic

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

May 20, 2003 Full Review Source: New York Times
New York Times
Top Critic IconTop Critic

With stunning set pieces and the dramatic backdrop of the revolution, Kaige captures perfectly the relationship between the two boys.

August 12, 2008 Full Review Source: Empire Magazine
Empire Magazine

Gong Li is superb and Cheng Kaige's direction suitably grandiose.

August 12, 2008 Full Review Source: Film4
Film4

the drama is cheesy, simplistic and too stodgy in its presentation to really hold up to its historic framing and epic sweep

August 21, 2006 Full Review Source: Cinema Writer
Cinema Writer

Visually impressive and emotionally complex, this historical epic, winner of the Cannes Festival Palme d'Or, relates the tumultuous history of China through the story of two friends who meet as children and become stars of the Peking Opera.

June 25, 2006 Full Review Source: EmanuelLevy.Com
EmanuelLevy.Com

Well-acted but limited because its drama is emotionally uninvolving.

April 3, 2006 Full Review Source: Ozus' World Movie Reviews
Ozus' World Movie Reviews

Sweeping, self-important and only moderately stirring.

March 22, 2006 Full Review Source: Lessons of Darkness
Lessons of Darkness

Visually stunning

July 20, 2003 Full Review Source: Spirituality and Practice
Spirituality and Practice

Luxurious, memorable scenes bring the past alive, though the editing is sometimes choppy and confusing.

January 9, 2002 Full Review Source: Movieline
Movieline

A lush epic that traces 50 years in the lives of a pair of Beijing Opera stars.

June 27, 2001 Full Review Source: Filmcritic.com
Filmcritic.com

While always entertaining, many of its historical nuances are likely to zip past American audiences. Clearly, they didn't zip past the Chinese censors.

January 1, 2000 Full Review Source: Austin Chronicle
Austin Chronicle

Overblown and wildly flamboyant, Farewell My Concubine boasts some startling moments, a few grand set-pieces and excellent performances all around.

January 1, 2000 Full Review Source: Deseret News, Salt Lake City
Deseret News, Salt Lake City

Audience Reviews for Ba wang bie ji (Farewell My Concubine)

Heartbreaking.
April 8, 2014
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.
January 15, 2013
ApeneckFletcher

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.
July 14, 2012
hunterjt13
Jim Hunter

Super Reviewer

What does it take to become a star? Wow! 92% of Flixsters and 88% of "critics" liked this one. Okay, I just have to preface this with two statements: You all know how much I like Gong Li, right? She's the bomb! And no, Walter, I did NOT add this to our little list of films I can't sit all the way through -- although I was tempted. I never thought I'd write this, but . . . this lengthy little film became extremely tedious after Gong Li arrived on the scene. What great potential this one had. When I think about folks like Jackie Chan having come up through the Bejing Opera training ranks, I just have to pray that his personal story had happier days. Corporal punishment. I hear exhausted teachers joking about this all the time. I know they don't mean it, but they say: Yes, the laying on of the strap could be very useful" . . . I guess. In this movie, well, it's actually funny at times. Why? I have no idea. I am totally opposed to the idea of beating students. Ever. But really, what does it take to become a star? Six fingers? No, "freaks" are apparently out. Thank goodness for sharp knives . . . I guess. Great until . . . sadly he says . . . Gong Li comes on the scene. From then on? Well, the initial tension between the two males is the great energy that pushes the first half of the film. I believe the introduction of a (??another??) love interest, with Gong Li, is supposed to heighten the tension between the two, but ironically, for me at least, she absolutely blocks up the energy, the flow, the qi/chi/ki/mana of the story. Oh well, I bow to Walter's recommendation. Walter, what say you? Thumbs up or thumbs down?
January 25, 2010
binky013

Super Reviewer

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  • Farewell My Concubine (Ba wang bie ji) (DE)
  • Farewell My Concubine (Ba wang bie ji) (UK)
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