Quick recap: This is the story of two men, Douzi and Shitou, whose friendship spans over 50 years in China.
Fun (?) fact: This is going to be a big one, so be prepared:
China banned this movie. I KNOW. Crazy right?!
My thoughts: You guys, opera is badass. Seriously. I know next to nothing about it, and what little I do know concerns Italian opera. I think I was aware that China had their own productions but I wasn’t aware how, well, badass it all was. Chinese opera has the same themes as opera around the world: love, death, war, but they have an added element of acrobatics, amazing feats of strength and stunning costumes. Watching Farewell, My Concubine makes me want to hunt down a show and watch it live because although the movie was good, it’s not the same as watching the real thing.
The plot is straightforward enough: two friends stay close for over 50 years. But oh my god, the things these two men went through. I don’t know if you are aware of this, but China has some really messed up history. At times, it felt like the director was going for melodrama, with one tragedy occurring after another, but then again Farewell, My Concubine takes place during a very turbulent time in China’s history. Although this story is fictional, I imagine most of what the movie portrays is something someone lived through at some point.
One thing that really captured my attention was the depth of the characters. Douzi is the main character, whose story starts with his mother abandoning him at the training headquarters for the Peking Opera. He is initially rejected because of an extra finger on his hand, but his mother chopped it off and walked away. The training was brutal, with boys constantly being beaten with swords and expected to be perfect. Douzi is strong, but feminine, and so is trained to perform the Dan (female) roles. Throughout the movie, he maintains his feminine personality, to the point of being overly dramatic, like many people thought homosexuals acted back in 1993. Shitou is the more masculine of the two, but very caring. He has a very short temper but somehow endless patience for Douzi. I really enjoyed not having to pick a protagonist and root for one person because everyone in this film had faults.
Final review: 5/5. Many of the scenes were very difficult to watch but I was engrossed the entire 3 hours and at the end, it felt like it was almost too short of a film
Up next: Tongues Untied