Pavilion of Women (2001)



Critic Consensus: Generating more suds than a soap opera, this adaptation of Pearl Buck's novel sinks under the weight of excess melodrama, stilted performances, and cheesy dialogue.

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Movie Info

A woman defies convention to find happiness, only to discover the costs are greater than she imagined in this drama based on the novel by Pearl S. Buck. In 1938, with Communist rebels on the rise in China and Imperial Japan intent upon expanding its rule into Manchuria and China, Lord Wu (Shek Sau) is a feudal leader who rules both his community and his family with an iron fist. But his wife, Madame Wu (Luo Yan), has just turned 40 and has grown weary of her husband's dominance. With her son Fengmo (John Cho) now 18 and engaged to be married, Madame Wu sees her responsibilities to her family all but complete, so in violation of traditional custom, she arranges for Chiuming (Yi Ding), a peasant girl just turned 18, to be brought into the household as Lord Wu's concubine, freeing her from sexual servitude to her husband. However, Chiuming's lack of sexual experience proves problematic for herself as well as Lord Wu, whose erotic tastes run to the unconventional. Meanwhile, Madame Wu makes the acquaintance of Andre (Willem Dafoe), an American missionary and doctor who is helping Fengmo with his studies; Andre is kind, compassionate, and intelligent, and he makes a tremendous impression on Madame Wu, who soon finds herself falling for the mysterious American as circumstances cause both her household and China to explode into chaos. Pavilion of Women was the first co-production between an American studio, Universal Pictures, and Beijing Film Studio of China; the film was shot on location in China, but with a primarily English-speaking cast.
R (adult situations)
Drama , Romance
Directed By:
Written By:
In Theaters:

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Willem Dafoe
as Father Andre
Yan Luo
as Madame Wu
John Cho
as Fengmo
Yi Ding (II)
as Chiuming
Amy Hill
as Madame Kang
Anita Loo
as Old Lady Wu
Kate McGregor-Stewart
as Sister Shirley
Liu Jia Dong
as Mr. Lang
Shu Chen (II)
as Head Servant
Poon Hang-sang
as Fat Cook
Wang Li
as Kang Lin Yi
Xu You Jin
as Matchmaker
Zhao Pei Ying
as Midwife
Mao Xiao Dong
as Liangmo
Huang Lan
as Meng
Sun Yang
as Fengma's Friend
Yu En Ti
as Fengma Friend
Yan Huai Bo
as Fengma's Friend
Jin Ge
as Loud Mouth
Nie Ya Liang
as Male Birthday Guest
Kang Zhang
as Male Birthday Guest
Lou Bing Kun
as Male Birthday Guest
Jiang Hai
as Male Birthday Guest
Zhong Yu Huang
as Male Birthday Guest
Su Zheng
as Female Birthday Guest
Zhang Xue Xin
as Female Birthday Guest
Zhang Hua
as Female Birthday Guest
Sun Bo
as Female Birthday Guest
Lisa Ng
as Female Birthday Guest
Rong Yang
as Kang Maid
John Dunn
as Kang Doorman
Miu Yan Lei
as Wu Relative
Betty Sun
as Wu Relative
Gu Xin-Qi
as Wu Relative
Guo Xuan Ming
as Wu Relative
Yang Ge
as Head of Police
Song Min Qi
as Orphanage Woman
Zhang Lei
as Kang's Wife
Gu Ying
as Kang's Wife
Irene Zhen
as Kang's Wife
Jin Ying Chun
as Bride Carrier
Pu Hong Kui
as Land Steward
Hong Zi Yuan
as Wu Doorman
Zhu Shou Gen
as Accountant
Linq Yim
as Policeman
Zhuang Cun
as KMT General
Chen Yin
as Japanese General
Liu Hui Dong
as Japanese General
Chen Yu Feng
as Japanese Soldier
Mo Chen Hao
as Orphan
Qi Lin Hui
as Orphan
Dong Xu Chao
as Orphan
Xi Yang
as Orphan
Zhang Zhao
as Orphan
Ye De Jie
as Orphan
Jiang Yi Fei
as Orphan
Xu Ding
as Orphan
Xue Tian Yun
as Orphan
Liu Meng Shi
as Orphan
Cao Xu Bai
as Kang Child
Gu En Hao
as Kang Child
Cai Yue
as Duck Kid
Xia Yue Qing
as Old Lady Wu's Fried
Wu Xiao Yi
as Old Lady Wu's Friend
Sun Hua Qin
as Old Lady Wu's Friend
Zhang Meng Yun
as Old Lady Wu's Maid
Zhou Chun
as Old Lady Wu's Maid
Zhao Wu Jiu
as Old Lady Wu's Maid
Qu Hui Zhen
as Wu Nanny
Qiu Zhan Zhu
as Wu Nanny
Gu Zheng Hong
as Kang Nanny
Liu Chun Lin
as Wu Servant
Wen Yi
as Wu Servant
Chen Qin
as Flower Boat Girl
Guo Min Na
as Flower Boat Girl
Zhou Ying
as Flower Boat Girl
Xiang Li Na
as Flower Boat Girl
Zhou Chun Yu
as Flower Boat Girl
Shen Ya
as Flower Boat Girl
Yuan Xiao Liang
as Pin Tan Player
Wang Jin
as Pin Tan Player
Jin Li Sheng
as Pin Tan Player
Wei Qiu Fang
as Pin Tan Player
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Critic Reviews for Pavilion of Women

All Critics (31) | Top Critics (12)

In many ways, this is the East Asian equivalent of the old Europudding productions, where international players have created something that's more cacaphonous than melodious.

Full Review… | June 11, 2001
Top Critic

The backdrop of exotic pagodas and wartime woe isn't nearly potent enough to buoy the feeble drama that plays out in the foreground.

May 17, 2001
Mr. Showbiz
Top Critic

Despite solid performances and handsome production values, the picture ultimately feels like secondhand goods that have been refurbished for North American consumption.

May 11, 2001
Hollywood Reporter
Top Critic

An instant antique.

Full Review… | May 4, 2001
Washington Post
Top Critic

Suggests a sudsy version of The King and I without forceful personalities or fancy production numbers.

Full Review… | May 4, 2001
Washington Post
Top Critic

Gets bogged down in enough 'event' to choke a miniseries.

Full Review… | May 4, 2001
USA Today
Top Critic

Audience Reviews for Pavilion of Women

A story about love and the sacrifices for love. I was really impressed by John Cho's performance as well as Luo Yan's; both of their characters (son and mother) feel trapped (by his father- her husband). He finds love with his father's second wife (who is his own age) while his mother falls for a missionary. Powerful. Simply powerful.

Katie B
Katie B

Started off great, Pearl S. Buck's novel talked in detail of many traditions in China and what happens when a foreigner comes into the picture. But the story contradicted all the Chinese traditions obviously. The film failed to show the development of Dafoe and Luo's characters, and the ending went to a different direction and become very religious.

Annie Chen
Annie Chen

A beautiful movie! Love John Cho in this!! Willem Dafoe gives an interesting performance as a foreigner in love with a wife from a noble Chinese family. I've seen this movie several times over, and I can never get bored of it.

Leo L
Leo L

Super Reviewer

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