Farewell My Concubine

MPAA Rating: R

Entertainment: +2

Content: -2 1/2

This fascinating but very long Chinese epic follows the friendship of two Beijing opera stars from their boyhood in 1924 to 1977. They become famous for their roles in a popular Chinese opera, FAREWELL MY CONCUBINE, with Xiaolou (Zhang Fengyi) playing the role of the king, and Dieyi (Leslie Cheung) playing the king's concubine. Dieyi's prostitute mother leaves her young son at the actor's training school because she can no longer keep him at the brothel where she works. The older Xiaolou takes the frightened little boy under his wing, trying to protect him as best he can. Dieyi, however, cannot separate fantasy from reality, thereby confusing his female stage role with his masculinity. He is devastated and extremely jealous when Xiaolou marries, creating a difficult dilemma for Xiaolou. The hardships and oppression suffered by the Chinese people during those fifty years paint a picture of hopelessness. The Chinese music and almost three hours of reading English subtitles do not lend themselves to wide audience appeal. FAREWELL MY CONCUBINE has nonetheless been critically acclaimed.

All the boys in the acting school are beaten unmercifully as a way to inspire perfection in their performances. Young Dieyi wonders out loud, "How many more beatings before I become a star?" They are also often chained into leg and arm stretching positions for hours at a time. Considering his abandonment by his mother and the lack of any women in the school or theatre, Dieyi's unnatural attachment to Xiaolou is understandable. His delicate build and stage presence attract homosexual men, some in influential positions. As a little boy, a rape by a lecherous nobleman is implied. When Dieyi becomes addicted to opium, Xiaolou and his wife save his life. Because Dieyi has six fingers and therefore ineligible to enter the school, his mother chops off the extra finger. Only the bloody aftermath is graphic. Other violence includes a firing squad killing, soldiers beating citizens, slapping, and destruction of the opera house by soldiers. Sexual intercourse between Xiaolou and his wife is implied once in an obscured, brief scene. Rear male nudity occurs several times in the boys' dormitory and when they are beaten. A number of obscenities and profanities pollute the dialogue. This depressing film mirrors a society void of hope.

Preview Reviewer: Mary Draughon
Miramax Films, 18 E. 48th St., Ste. 1601, NY, NY 10017

The following categories contain objective listings of film content which contribute to the subjective numeric Content ratings posted to the left and on the Home page.

Crude Language: Many (19) times - Mild 4; Moderate 15

Obscene Language: Many (15) times (f-word 8; s-word 3; other 4)

Profanity: Regular 5 times

Violence: Many times - Moderate and Severe (young boys beaten; finger chopped off; 2 suicides by hanging; wife slapped; implied rape of young boy by old man; men beaten by soldiers; property destruction)

Sex: Implied once, husband and wife

Nudity: Rear male nudity several times

Sexual Dialogue/Gesture: Rowdy scene in brothel; few references to sexual activities

Drugs: Opium addiction (not condoned)

Other: None

Running Time:
Intended Audience: Adults

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