Farewell My Concubine (Ba wang bie ji)


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


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

The story begins in the 1920s, and continues through to the aftermath of the Cultural Revolution. The early part of the film focuses on the training and adolescent relationships of two young men who are destined to perform in the famed Peking Opera. Due to the arduous and complex nature of their training, the story begins when one of them (nicknamed Douzi) (played as an adult by Hong Kong singer Leslie Cheung) is deposited at the school by his mother when he is quite a young boy. He becomes friends with a lad called Shitou (Zhang Fengyi as an adult), and their friendship goes through a variety of ups and downs occasioned by the fact that Douzi is homosexual, and Shitou is married. They do not ever appear to have had a sexual romance, but Douzi certainly resents his reduced access to his friend after he marries. Ironically, given the cooperative nature of this film's production, it was banned in Taiwan because too many of its stars were mainland Chinese.

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

All Critics (36) | 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.

Aug 12, 2008 | Full Review…

This is entertaining filmmaking on a grand scale.

Aug 12, 2008 | Full Review…

Seductively lensed but emotionally uninvolving.

May 21, 2008 | Full Review…
Top Critic

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

Apr 7, 2008 | Full Review…
Top Critic

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

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

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

May 20, 2003 | Rating: 5/5

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


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
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
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?

Lanning : )
Lanning : )

Super Reviewer

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