Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBB.5.
Original title: Ba Wang Bie Ji
China/Hong Kong, 1993. Beijing Film Studio, China Film Co-Production Corporation, Maverick Picture Company, Tomson Films. Screenplay by Pik Wah Lee, Wei Lu, based on the novel by Pik Wah Lee. Cinematography by Changwei Gu. Produced by Feng Hsu. Music by Jiping Zhao. Production Design by Yuhe Yang, Zhanjia Yang. Costume Design by Changmin Chen. Film Editing by Xiaonan Pei. Academy Awards 1993. Boston Film Critics Awards 1993. Cannes Film Festival 1993. Golden Globe Awards 1993. National Board of Review Awards 1993. New York Film Critics Awards 1993. Toronto International Film Festival 1993.
If this excellent Chinese drama ended sooner it would have been a much better film, but even at its excessive running time it is an eye-popping spectacle. Leslie Cheung is excellent as an opera singer who was sold to the Peking Opera as a child and grows up to be a famous performer in his country. The story plays out like a love triangle between him, the man he loves, and the man’s wife (Gong Li), while the background attempts to squeeze a whole dollop of Chinese history into one film. It doesn’t always succeed, especially in its last third, but it’s great to look at and often quite inspiring.