A handsomely-mounted, classically told biopic/drama epic with political backdrop
Apparently Miramax mangled it a bit and there’s a shorter cut out there but I was able to catch the 171 minute restored original version
Starts in 1924 with a b/w flashback, and then Kaige Chen turns the dial up to color in-scene
the Cannes Festival Palme d’Or
Big, many extras—the background of the abuse and tough upbringing for the child actors in the biopic genre (runs about 43 minutes before the adult actors).
The War with japan, the cultural revolution later— serve as characters in the film
The narrative is fully engaging—it is very strong. The 171 minutes never lag
Gong Li arrives 56 minutes in and the film jumps up a level because of it. She’s fantastic (and in her absolute prime in 1993). Her scene in the House of Blossoms whorehouse (really beautiful production design—red and green lights), her face and stare as her husband sells her out at the student revolution finale—an impressive performance to add to her resume
On top of the two leads, fascinating struggles and triumphs of the protagonists- there’s another thread of story here with the love triangle and male/male love story and ensuing rivalry between Gong Li and Leslie Cheung as they fight for the love of the Fengyi Zhang character
Sumptuously shot theater (within the film) scenes- production design achievement
I can’t say it’s overt- but the shots here in the opium scene in front of the fish tank feel like they have to be a nod to Imamura, right? Specifically The Pornographers– this can’t be a coincidence
Rich and complex characterizations—the scene where Cheung’s character puts the theater headdress on the king after he’s told he can’t perform is powerful. And then Gong Li consoles him.
A Highly Recommend film- top 10 of the year quality film