After being abandoned by his prostitute mother in 1924 Peking, Douzi meets Shitou through a theater troupe that raises them, resulting in a friendship that brings them fame and fortune, but also betrayal and tragedy.
Thirty years after its release, the first ever Chinese language Palme d’Or winner has finally been made more accessible through Criterion Channel through its uncut 4K restoration. Farewell My Concubine is one of those classical epics that is considered essential viewing, but even with its near 3 hour runtime, the film still holds up all these decades later with its startlingly heartrending love story and depiction of the tumultuous shifts of 20th century China. Director Chen Kaige masterfully balances both sides, tapping into the pain Dieyi (Leslie Chung) chooses as he clings to the classical opera, the very art form that allows him a sliver of his unrequited love to be realized, but that is also limited depending on whichever government is in charge at the moment. It’s possibly one of the most beautiful and most miserable films ever made.
What stands out
Viewers have long raved about the historical epic’s lavish production design and comprehensive history, but Farewell My Concubine would not have the emotional resonance that it has without the performances of Leslie Cheung and Gong Li.
More like this in
The Zone of Interest (2023)
A chilling and masterful display of the banality of evil
End of the Century (2019)
A quietly devastating queer romance that does everything with softness and sensitivity
The Farewell (2019)
Awkwafina shines in this complex culture clash comedy.
Paris Je T’aime (2006)
An anthology ode to the City of Love stacked with talent behind and in front of the camera
Miss Shampoo (2023)
Mobster drama meets quirky romance in this unique, though uneven, Taiwanese comedy
In the Same Breath (2021)
A Chinese filmmaker's account of COVID-19 cover-ups and propaganda
A Brighter Summer Day (1991)
A rich, melancholy tale of 1960s youth in Taiwan
The inventive sequel to In the Mood for Love
Days of Being Wild (1990)
A dreamy rumination on the beauty of unattainable romance
Drive My Car (2021)
A poignant, meandering tale of art, love, and loss