Home Chinese Movies&TV Farewell, My Concubine 霸王别姬 ~ Chinese Movies&TV

Farewell, My Concubine 霸王别姬 ~ Chinese Movies&TV

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Chinese name: 霸王别姬 (bàwánɡ bié jī)

English name: Farewell, My Concubine

An exemplar work of Chinese movies, ‘Farewell, My Concubine’ was awarded the Golden Palm award at the Cannes Film Festival. It is adapted from the novel written by Hong Kong female writer Li Bihua. The film tells the story of Cheng Dieyi, a Peking Opera singer who was sold to a Peking Opera troupe since the childhood. He has a close relationship with his senior fellow apprentice Duan Xiaolou, and the two rise to fame in the capital for co-starring ‘Farewell, My Concubine’. However, Duan Xiaolou has married prostitute Ju Xian beforehand, and during the Cultural Revolution, Cheng Dieyi and Duan Xiaolou betray each other, which makes Dieyi feel lost at the lifelong artistic pursuit. In the end Cheng Dieyi commits suicide at the stage when rehearsing with Duan Xiaolou again after the Cultural Revolution. Magnificent in style and elaborate in making, the film mixed the story of the two Peking Opera singers with the historic development of China over half a century, depicting the epic structure with subtle feelings between the two males.

Until Farewell, My Concubine (Ba Wang Bie Ji), not many people were aware that most members of the Peking Opera were originally orphans or illegitimate castaways with nowhere else to turn. Such is the case of the film’s protagonists, Duan Xiaolou (Zhang Fengyi) and Cheng Dieyi (Leslie Cheung), two homeless outcasts, trained from childhood in the grueling rigors of the Opera by master Lu Qui. The film traces the 52-year friendship between Xiaolou and Dieyi, a friendship pockmarked with fiery conflicts and tender reconciliations. Though the delicate Dieyi specializes in female roles and the gutsy Xiaolou plays noble warriors, theirs is an essentially heterosexual relationship; still, when Xiaolou takes upon himself a prostitute bride (the magnificent Gong Li), Dieyi is as petty and jealous as an outcast mistress. Farewell, My Concubine holds the viewer in thrall from start to finish; as such, it is thoroughly deserving of its many international film awards and nominations. Surprisingly, this worldwide success was something of a flop in its home country of China; perhaps it hit too close to home for those viewers who’d lived through the same years so painstakingly recreated in the film.

Words:

典型diǎnxínɡ : exemplar
授予shòuyǔ : award
改编ɡǎibiān : adapt
血缘关系xuèyuán ɡuānxi : relationship
事先shìxiān : beforehand
自杀zìshā : suicide
混合hùnhé : mix
结构jiéɡòu : structure

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