The realization that brutality is the accepted norm washes over a westerner who waits and hopes in vain for some restraining force that never comes.
Throughout its great length and bulk, "Farewell My Concubine" chronicles the path of modern Chinese history on one hand and the arduous path that carries two young men from apprenticeship to stardom in Chinese opera on the other. It's hard to say which is the more grueling ordeal.
Their journey would be story enough to sustain this film that was co-winner of the Grand Prize at the Cannes Festival, but something far more disturbing is going on here in the form of massive cross cultural shock. The tale of the two boys details the awful brutality that permeates their training. The realization that brutality is the accepted norm washes over a westerner who waits and hopes in vain for some restraining force that never comes. What sets in is the chilling certainty that human life is valued very differently in the two cultures.
Director Chen Kaige has directed an excellent cast in a grand historical drama, but perhaps his greater service is that he alerts Americans and Europeans to the profound differences that will confront us as two ancient cultures meet and begin to interact in the next millennium.
Film Critic: JOAN ELLIS
Word Count: 190
Copyright (c) Illusion
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