Posted on 11/06/11 12:09 PM
Farewell My Concubine is a glorious epic about two friends over the span of many decades. Together they go through the horrors of opera school as children in the 1920's, and then Opera stars during the Japanese invasion of China in the 30's, the Communist takeover in the 40's, and the Cultural Revolution of the 60's. Between them is the wife of one and a former prostitute, Juxian, played by Gong Li. The relationship among the three is often very complex, and goes through plenty of turmoil, but Dieyi and Xiaolou and the Beijing Opera somehow stay together.
This movie to put it simply is beautiful, particularly during the opera scenes. It's one of the most pleasing movies just to look at that I have seen in some time. It's also beautifully told. With so much ambition it could have been way too complex for someone not familiar with the history to understand, but it's actually quite direct and flows fantastically from one section to another.
The two acting leads do good jobs, but it's Gong Li that stands out. Her character evolves greatly at first from dislike of Dieyi to sympathy and even tenderness. In her marriage to Xialou she wants him to quit Opera, but eventually accepts it and sees it as a necessary part of his life. Gong Li is the main heart and soul of the film, and this is the best acting work I have seen from her.
This certainly stands as one of the five best Chinese language films I have ever seen. It's not completely flawless, some of the earlier scenes I think are a bit heavy-handed, but overall this epic and tragic story for friendship and love is a must see.