Magazine article New Internationalist

Farewell My Concubine

Magazine article New Internationalist

Farewell My Concubine

Article excerpt

In 1984 Beijing - born director Chen Kaige's debut film Yellow Earth heralded a new era for Chinese cinema - the 'Fifth generation' of filmmakers who were openly critical of the country's recent history. Yellow Earth won awards internationally but was vilified at home. The Communist Party leaders denounced the film for its portrayal of the country's 'poverty and backwardness'. Ten years and five films on, Kaige still courts controversy. Farewell My Concubine could only be screened in China after some judicial pruning. The objections this time have to do with the fact that the film deals with homosexuality.

Certainly Kaige and the screenwriter Lilian Lee, upon whose novel the film is based, are charting new ground and touching on desires that have been previously stifled in China. But it is ironical that Kaige deals with it in terms of China's oldest artistic tradition, the Beijing Opera - founded anyway on sexual ambiguity given that the women's roles are always played by men. …

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