#139- Farewell, My Concubine

Quick recap: This is the story of two men, Douzi and Shitou, whose friendship spans over 50 years in China.

best friends, being bros, doing bro things

best friends, being bros, doing bro things

Fun (?) fact: This is going to be a big one, so be prepared:

Ready?

China banned this movie. I KNOW. Crazy right?!

showing young boys being beaten and tortured was cool for China, but not the homosexual vibes going on between the two characters

showing young boys being beaten and tortured was cool for China, but not the homosexual vibes going on with Douzi

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.

the story is that a king is defeated in war. All his soldiers abandon him, except for his horse and concubine. The concubine stands until the very end and then kills herself with his sword.

the story is that a king is defeated in war. All his soldiers abandon him, except for his horse and concubine. The concubine stands until the very end and then kills herself with his sword.

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

#117- Nashville

Quick recap:This is a satirical film about……Nashville. There are a billion different characters and story lines which I’m not even going to attempt to go into.

even Jeff Goldblum is in the movie

even Jeff Goldblum is in the movie

Fun (?) fact: Almost all the dialogue throughout the movie is improvised. Also, all actors singing were required to write and perform their own original songs.

even Elliott Gould appeared briefly in Nashville

even Elliott Gould appeared briefly in Nashville

My thoughts: I’m not sure where to begin on this review because frankly, I’m not entirely sure what I just watched. IMDb says this movie is in the drama genre but there is satire so I should’ve laughed, right? Or at least shook my head and quietly mumbled, ‘good job, Altman. You get it.’? I think my issue with the ‘satire’ label is that I have no concept of what life was like then. Director Robert Altman tried to capture what America was going through in 1975-  the end of Vietnam War as well as the Watergate scandal, and then the bicentennial celebration in 76 which was supposed to honor the morals that the US was founded on. So, in the sense that I am an adult with critical thinking skills I get the point but I don’t really get it because I wasn’t alive then. In this instance, the movie’s core was lost on me but for someone older I could imagine it really having an impact and bringing back memories of that time.

So what I’m left with is a story about Nashville. Kind of. As mentioned above, there are so many story lines and characters that it mostly seems chaotic. The characters interact with each other and show up at various events together but they aren’t best friends or anything. I spent the first 2 hours trying to find a connection and then waiting for a big moment but it didn’t come until the very end. The ending is a twist and sort of ties everything together but not really. As an example, one of the characters is a soldier who keeps popping up around another character, Barbara Jean. He is shown in all scenes with her, even as just a face in the crowd in some instances. It is later revealed that his mom once saved Barbara Jean from a fire and wanted her son to find her. That’s it. That was the climax for that story line.

Other story lines- in fact, almost all of the story lines- are bleak and sad. There’s Sueeleen who can’t sing but since she’s hot she gets booked into a big gig. Once the people hear her they start to boo. She is then talked into a strip tease because that’s what the audience really came for. Another sad character is Mr. Green, whose wife is in the hospital. He spends the movie trying to hunt down his niece who would rather visit with boys than her sick aunt, who later dies. It seemed as if Altman was making fun of the country music scene but even his most famous character Haven Hamilton is pretty much what I would expect a country star to act like. I think I just didn’t get this movie or its importance. Moving on.

nashville-001

Final review: 2/5. It also annoys me that so many stars were in this movie. No reason why, but I think it added to the overall chaos

Up next: Muriel’s Wedding