Thursday, November 14, 2013

854. Ba wang Bie Ji/Farewell My Concubine (1993)

Running Time: 171 minutes
Directed By: Kaige Chen
Written By: Wei Lu, from novel by Lillian Lee
Main Cast: Leslie Cheung, Zhang Fengyi, Gong Li, Ge You, Lu Qi
Click here to view the trailer


Now this was a rough one to get through! Of course we're talking today about "Farewell My Concubine" - a 1993 Chinese film that gained worldwide attention when it won the Palme d'Or at the Cannes film festival that year and was purchased by Miramax, for release in the U.S. Gotta' tell ya', if I was in Bob & Harvey's shoes, I'd have taken a big 'ol pass on this one.

Let's see here...plot, plot. Look, I'm going to level with you, I watched a good forty-five minutes of this one before mentally checking out and I won't lie, from that point on I was watching but I wasn't paying much attention. I kept reading the subtitles, but I had other things on my mind and what I really wanted was for this to just end. I can tell you that the film was about a couple of male actors, who were brought together at a young age at an acting academy, where everyone was groomed as if they'd be the next big stars. I'm talking about the main characters: Dieyi (Cheung) and Xiaolou (Fengyi). In their case, they did grow up to be China's two most popular actors, starring opposite one another in the opera, "Farewell My Concubine". Xiaolou is a boy, who plays female roles on the stage and a hint of homosexual undertones can be sensed, especially when Dieyi gets engaged and Xiaolou becomes enraged with jealousy. Their bond is tested over the course of fifty years, which include a war with Japan and the Cultural Revolution. That's all I got for ya, plot wise.

Here's the deal: I'm not going to spend a lot of time detailing why I didn't like this one, because I'm going to say - and I'm confident that this explanation has never been more true than it is in the case of "Farewell My Concubine" - that this just wasn't for me. Call it a culture clash, call it something completely out of my taste range, call it whatever you like, but it was clear to me from the get go that I wasn't going to take to this one and that the audience for this picture was elsewhere. I'm not going to lie folks, I tried, I really did. After a good ninety minutes, when I knew the plot wasn't going to recapture my attention, I tired to focus more on the cinematography, the sets, the costumes and the score, to try and find something redeemable about this movie, but even those aspects failed to really capture my attention and I was left with a head full of thoughts, none of which had anything to do with this picture. You know how sometimes when you read a book and your mind will wander off elsewhere, but you'll keep reading the words even though you really have no idea what you're reading? That's how I was when I was reading the subtitles to this. I had so many other things going through my mind and no matter how much I tried to concentrate on the film, I just couldn't stay focused on it. It was like I had temporary ADD or something. And no, it wasn't the cold medicine, because I hadn't taken any around the time that I watched this.

So there you have it. Not a very elaborate or eloquent viewpoint, but this was never meant to be anything more than a public diary of my progress through the "1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die" book. And in this diary entry, I choose to write little and simply say that the film wasn't my cup of tea. I take full blame and I'm sure that the movie earned whatever awards and praise that it was showered with, but as far as this viewer is concerned, it's something that I guarantee I'll never sit through again.

RATING: 1/10  Yup, for me personally, it doesn't get any lower. 'Nuff said.


November 14, 2013  10:48pm


  1. Regrettably, I must agree with you, but I get a strong feeling we both missed something.
    May be both of us were on a bad day, lacking concentration or something when we watched it...because i finished feeling I had failed the film rather than it had failed me.
    It just never really grabbed me and held my attention. And once your full attention, and involvement goes from a film like this, you are lost.

    So I think this one is an agreement. Shame, as i still feel there was a stunning film in there I also failed to see.

    1. Agree 100% and love your line about failing the film as opposed to the film failing us. Although, is it not the objective of the film to get our attention and hold it? And now to know that this happened with you too, I wonder if it was our fault or if there was truly something wrong with this film?

      Who knows, although like you, I'm sure there was something fantastic in there somewhere.

  2. I was also just waiting this one to end. However, I will rewatch it someday... just to be sure, that I didn't miss something or had a bad day when I watched it.
    - Sandra

    1. Well, that's three people now who have said they had a really hard time with it, so I'm beginning to feel like this one isn't as much my fault as I'd originally thought.

  3. I understand where you and the other commenters are coming from, but I enjoyed this one quite a bit. I especially enjoyed the relationship between the 2 leads and the sets and costumes. It was such a different take on life and culture than I see on a regular basis that it was kind of transporting. Plus I had a real hard time with a lot of the more obscure Chinese movies from the Book that I was glad to find one that I enjoyed.

    1. Can I assume one of those "obscure Chinese movies" you're referring to is "The Blue Kite", which I'm currently halfway through and already ready to throw in the towel?

  4. I haven't hit "The Blue Kite" yet. I was actually thinking of "A City of Sadness", "Peking Opera Blues", "The Horse Thief", and "Red Sorghum".

    1. Oh no, I think I have all of those scheduled to watch very soon - like this 100 soon.

      Out of curiosity, how far are you from finishing THE BOOK and are you working out of one single edition or watching every film that has ever appeared in any edition of THE BOOK?


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