Farewell My Concubine – a movie review

July 2, 2013

Chen Kaige, self-trained as a filmmaker, was the director for this award winning 1993 film. Prior to “Farewell, My Concubine“, Chen received modest acclaim for the “Yellow Earth” and “The Big Parade”. With “Farewell, My Concubine,” he won the Palme d-or in Cannes.

Although the film is in Mandarin with English subtitles, the story captured me from the beginning. If you are interested in Chinese history, this film spans several decades beginning near the end of the Qing Dynasty. On the surface, it is just a story of two boys who happen to become famous, but have their difficulties like most of us lesser mortals do. However, the setting shows the  transformation of a nation from the Qing Dynasty to a warlord dominated republic, the Japanese invasion of World War II and then Mao’s Cultural Revolution.

I saw this movie a decade ago and I remember this powerful, dramatic story of one man’s life from the day his mother took a knife and chopped off an extra finger on each hand so he would have five instead of the six he was born with.

The main character is apparently modeled after an actual person—Peking Opera superstar Mei Lanfang—some may imagine that Lanfang was ‘gay’. However, he only specialized in male roles. He was married at least three times and had children.

Discover Not One Less


Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine [3rd edition]. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.

His latest novel, Running with the Enemy, was awarded an honorable mention in general fiction at the 2013 San Francisco Book Festival.

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