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Leslie Cheung, Fengyi Zhang, Li Gong, Qi Lü, Da Ying ... see more see more... , You Ge , David Wu , Chun Li , Han Lei

Until Farewell, My Concubine (Ba Wang Bie Ji), not many people were aware that most members of the Peking Opera were originally orphans or illegitimate castaways with nowhere else to turn. Such is the... read more read more... case of the film's protagonists, Duan Xiaolou (Zhang Fengyi) and Cheng Dieyi (Leslie Cheung), two homeless outcasts, trained from childhood in the grueling rigors of the Opera by master Lu Qui. The film traces the 52-year friendship between Xiaolou and Dieyi, a friendship pockmarked with fiery conflicts and tender reconciliations. Though the delicate Dieyi specializes in female roles and the gutsy Xiaolou plays noble warriors, theirs is an essentially heterosexual relationship; still, when Xiaolou takes upon himself a prostitute bride (the magnificent Gong Li), Dieyi is as petty and jealous as an outcast mistress. Farewell, My Concubine holds the viewer in thrall from start to finish; as such, it is thoroughly deserving of its many international film awards and nominations. Surprisingly, this worldwide success was something of a flop in its home country of China; perhaps it hit too close to home for those viewers who'd lived through the same years so painstakingly recreated in the film. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Flixster Users

93% liked it

15,744 ratings


88% liked it

33 critics

R, 2 hr. 34 min.

Directed by: Kaige Chen

Release Date: January 1, 1993

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DVD Release Date: December 14, 1999

Stats: 851 reviews

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Flixster Reviews (851)

  • fb223580
    April 8, 2014
  • January 15, 2013
    The story of China joining the modern age seen through the lives of two principal performers of the Beijing Opera. Cruel, majestic, courageous, sweeping, and glorious, this is not to be missed. Of course, the singing can only be an acquired taste, but this is still about the st... read moreory, magnificently told.
  • July 14, 2012
    This sprawling epic depicts the friendship of two Chinese opera stars amidst the tumultuous Twentieth Century history of China.
    What a grand film with beautiful art direction and cinematography to match. But the real highlights are the the two stars, Leslie Cheung and Fengyi Zha... read moreng who give tour de force performances. Their interaction is real and fraught with all the history the film depicts, which is no small matter; approximately fifty years of history are crammed into the film's three hours. Many of the scenes are built on subtlety and subtext with hinting looks and knowing glances, and lesser actors would not have been able to convey the nuances of the characters.
    I have to trust in the film's verisimilitude when it comes to the opera scenes, which are occasionally too long and not as compelling as the off-stage troubles the actors create and are victim to. These sequences are educational, exposing Western viewers to Chinese opera, an area of performance most of us aren't accustomed to seeing.
    Overall, Farewell, My Concubine is a remarkable achievement and a world-widening experience.
  • January 25, 2010
    What does it take to become a star?

    Wow! 92% of Flixsters and 88% of "critics" liked this one. Okay, I just have to preface this with two statements:

    You all know how much I like Gong Li, right? She's the bomb!

    And no, Walter, I did NOT add this to our little list

    ... read more of films I can't sit all the way through -- although I was tempted.

    I never thought I'd write this, but . . . this lengthy little film became extremely tedious after Gong Li arrived on the scene.

    What great potential this one had. When I think about folks like Jackie Chan having come up through the Bejing Opera training ranks, I just have to pray that his personal story had happier days.

    Corporal punishment. I hear exhausted teachers joking about this all the time. I know they don't mean it, but they say: Yes, the laying on of the strap could be very useful" . . . I guess. In this movie, well, it's actually funny at times. Why? I have no idea. I am totally opposed to the idea of beating students. Ever. But really, what does it take to become a star? Six fingers? No, "freaks" are apparently out. Thank goodness for sharp knives . . . I guess.

    Great until . . . sadly he says . . . Gong Li comes on the scene. From then on? Well, the initial tension between the two males is the great energy that pushes the first half of the film. I believe the introduction of a (??another??) love interest, with Gong Li, is supposed to heighten the tension between the two, but ironically, for me at least, she absolutely blocks up the energy, the flow, the qi/chi/ki/mana of the story.

    Oh well, I bow to Walter's recommendation. Walter, what say you? Thumbs up or thumbs down?

  • July 29, 2009
    A wonderful sprawling epic that perfectly captures it's time period. Although it deals with some very important and deep political issues it is essentially a tale of two friends. The film starts with the men as children and we see their friendship grow as they deal with their rou... read moregh childhood. Friendship soon turns to love but the arrival of Gong Li creates tension. The film has two incredible performances, one from Zhang as the stronger and more independent friend and Cheung as the tragic and needy Dieyi. The film has one of the most expertly crafted narratives I've ever seen. Every scene has a point and though it jumps through the decades, the mesmerizing editing means the film flows without interruption. This is a beautiful 3 hours, a film where everything comes together and makes a powerful and enlightening experience.
  • July 14, 2007
    Brilliant movie.
  • fb721890245
    January 5, 2010
    The gang is all here! Li Gong! Leslie Cheung and Fengyi Zhang and not one of the bigger directors in the chair. Nonetheless Kaige Chen does a fabulous job of getting the most out of relationships with his actors.
  • August 14, 2008
    Introspective epic,culminating pictures,aspect supported by the marks of the great Leslie Cheung (and of Li Gong's stealing-the-show performances), the political backdrop along with the luxurious art direction.
  • October 4, 2007
    I found this movie to be very well written and directed. I had different ideas on what this movie was going to be about, and it threw me way off. But it's a unique tale of the story, with amazing performances by both the young boy actors to the adult men that portray these charac... read moreters. Very well writtend and directed as well as the Art Direction and score for the film that made it more beautiful. ;) I liked it alot.
  • April 10, 2007
    Loved this film! First watched it when I was a teen.

Critic Reviews

Richard Corliss
August 12, 2008
Richard Corliss, TIME Magazine

The scenes in the Peking Opera School, where boys are caned for doing wrong or right, are no less horrifying than the later tableaus of public humiliation at the hands of the Maoists. Full Review

Jonathan Rosenbaum
August 12, 2008
Jonathan Rosenbaum, Chicago Reader

This is entertaining filmmaking on a grand scale. Full Review

Derek Elley
May 21, 2008
Derek Elley, Variety

Seductively lensed but emotionally uninvolving. Full Review

David Ansen
April 7, 2008
David Ansen, Newsweek

Chen's remarkable movie uses an unusual love triangle to telescope more than 50 years of tumultuous Chinese history. Full Review

Geoff Andrew
January 26, 2006
Geoff Andrew, Time Out

Appropriately operatic, Chen's visually spectacular epic is sumptuous in every respect. Intelligent, enthralling, rhapsodic. Full Review

Vincent Canby
May 20, 2003
Vincent Canby, New York Times

One of those very rare film spectacles that deliver just about everything the ads are likely to promise. Full Review

Roger Ebert
January 1, 2000
Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times

The film flows with such urgency that all its connections seem logical. And it is filmed with such visual splendor that possible objections are swept aside. Full Review

Desson Thomson
January 1, 2000
Desson Thomson, Washington Post

Like Cheung's ethereally plaintive voice, the movie is a siren song that's appealing at first, but held too long. It becomes an increasing whine. Full Review

Hal Hinson
January 1, 2000
Hal Hinson, Washington Post

The director carries us through this early history with impressive sensitivity; he has a beautiful, graceful touch, both with the camera and with his actors. Full Review

James Berardinelli
January 1, 2000
James Berardinelli, ReelViews

A motion picture experience that few will soon forget after leaving the theater. Full Review

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