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View All M. Butterfly News
All Critics (21)
| Top Critics (5)
| Fresh (9)
| Rotten (12)
The problem is not simply that Lone's drag wouldn't fool a baby. In the magnified intimacy of the camera's eye, it's clear Hwang doesn't really know who these unlikely lovers are. Metaphors can't carry a movie-flesh and blood is what's required.
On screen, under the caring but superficial direction of David Cronenberg, the realism of the camera cruelly exposes all the pretenses of this play about a French diplomat who loves a man posing as a woman.
When John Lone parades around in mascara and speaks in an asexual monotone, the film audience discovers itself staring at John Lone's whiskers underneath his makeup
One of Cronenberg's most problematic and most disappointing films, largely due to the source material.
Cronenberg no longer needs slimy parasites or exploding heads; the human heart's ability to fool itself is frightening and bizarre enough.
There's a lot to chew on in this incredible love story turned into a grisly horror story.
A rare mis-step for director Cronenberg, neutering a challenging play with a bizarrely conservative filming approach.
Downright peculiar film from Cronenberg. Far from his best, but better than its reputation.
M. Butterfly is Cronenberg's least-known and most underrated work, far superior to his great cult hit, Scanners.
Cronenberg and Hwang seem to have conspired to dull the material at every turn.
David Cronenberg's most bland and disappointing work. Ironic, seeing how the source material is so interesting.
In "M Butterfly," Rene Gallimard(Jeremy Irons) is a minor official at the French embassy in Beijing in 1964. As such, he is tired of the tedious events on the social circuit, until he watches a performance of "Madama Butterfly" for the first time and is smitten with Song Liling(John Lone), the lead performer. This infatuation leads him to seek a performance of Chinese opera along with a passionate affair between the two, unbeknowst to Rene's wife Jeanne(Barbara Sukowa). At the same time, he comes to the attention of Ambassador Toulon(Ian Richardson) and is promoted to vice consul.
"M Butterfly" is an underrated, very evocative and well-acted movie that touches on David Cronenberg's recurring theme of forbidden love(So, maybe he is a big softie at heart...) while also much more political than his other movies.(David Henry Hwang adapts his own play.) Subtly, the point is we see what we want to see, applied personally to Rene who is from a cloistered background.(Hell, even I've seen a performance of "Madama Butterfly.") This is a more modest time when men and women might still have been old fashioned enough to not undress in front of each other. While open to new experiences, he is also very naive in miscomprehending them. Rene is symbolic of the French government which is a decade removed from being forcibly removed from Vietnam, just got ejected from Algeria and are still analyzing Asia through their own colonial preconceptions which leads to vast mistakes, and continues in the present day with other countries in the Middle East.
Strange film, even for Cronenberg.
David Cronenberg's strength is bringing out the humanity of the oddest characters in the oddest situations. Perhaps the well-known story of M Butterfly was too narrow for him to experiment? Perhaps he decided it was best to stick to the play as faithfully as possible? I don't know what happened, but the imaginative, irreverent, twisted, the king of psychosexual dramas that David Cronenberg has always been and that I have always loved, is repressed. Little inventiveness. All in all, a very conventional film.
The upside: beautiful cinematography, excellent performance from John Lone and Jeremy Irons. Jeremy Irons can do no wrong. He always plays very similar, tortured characters, but does a great job in every occasion. Rene Gallimard is a blind, vague character, but Irons pulls out the best of him. I would watch the film only to see that.
Bottomline: this could have been fantastic! It's just good.
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