Farewell My Concubine

China (1993)
Dir: Chen Kai-ge

Cast: Leslie Cheung, Zhang Fengyi, Gong Li

A gorgeous movie about two actors working for the Beijing Opera and their deep friendship through several decades of war and political uprisings in China. A woman comes between them and complicates the homoerotic tension between the pair. Cheung is electrifying as the elegant and effeminate "Douzi". However as the years pass, he is also the only one who never seems to age. I felt that the main drawback of the film was its over-ambitiousness in cramming so much of China's political history to serve as a background for an already emotionally complex plot. Its overall effect was I think, some dilution of the emotions of the menage a trois. Still, it is quite a visual treat.

Rating: 7.0


Czechoslovakia/UK (1994)
Dir: Jan Svankmajer

Cast: Petr Cepek

One of Svankmajer's major full-length surrealist films, Faust gives Goethe's story a modern, surrealist spin. The protagonist, confronted by a pair of mysterious-looking chaps handing out leaflets at a Prague street corner, soon finds himself playing Faust in a macabre theatrical production, deep in a dilapidated warehouse-cum-stage. Many odd things happen without explanation and one soon feels like one is watching someone else's dream. This is a showcase of Svankmajer's trademark puppetry and grotesque animations - a delightfully weird film to challenge your perceptions of the quotidian and ordinary - or not.

Rating: 7.5


India (1996)
Dir: Deepa Mehta

Cast: Shabana Azmi, Nandita Das, Jaaved Jaaffery, Kulbhushan Kharbanda

A modern New Delhi story about young, beautiful Sita who has an arranged marriage with Jatin and begins to live with his extended family according to Indian custom, including their invalid grandmother who is lovingly cared for by Sita's long-suffering daughter-in-law, Radha. Radha's own husband has sworn to celibacy and is absent for long periods as a disciple of a Hindu guru. So Sita and Radha are eventually drawn together, first out of mutual empathy and then eventually discover a startling physical and emotional intimacy that starts to erode away at their cosy but oppressive family life, challenging them to defy convention.

Wooden acting and a poor script detract from the movie but this is an admirable effort anyway at breaking a huge taboo in Indian cinema.

Rating: 5.5

Copyright ArtemisWorks 2002