Fifth-generation Chinese filmmaker Chen Kaige’s “Farewell My Concubine” wowed the Cannes jury under president Louis Malle in 1993 — all the way to a Palme d’Or win. But by the time the three-hour epic set in the world of the Peking Opera reached U.S. theaters that year, Miramax’s Harvey Weinstein had cut 20 minutes from the movie that left even Malle puzzled. According to Peter Biskind‘s influential “Down and Dirty Pictures,” Malle said the new version seemed “longer because it doesn’t make any sense. It was better before those guys made cuts.”
At last, “Farewell My Concubine,” the only Chinese-language film ever to win the Palme, is now being returned to theaters in its full 171-minute glory, courtesy of Film Movement Classics. IndieWire exclusively announces that the distributor will release a newly restored 4K version in North American theaters beginning September 22 at Film Forum in New York City.
Also, watch an exclusive new trailer for the classic film starring icons Leslie Cheung, Zhang Fengyi, and Gong Li below.
In Kaige’s adaptation of the Lilian Lee novel, Cheng Dieyi (Leslie Cheung) and Duan Xiaolou (Zhang Fengyi) grow up enduring the harsh training of the Peking Opera Academy, where instructors regularly beat the students to instill in them the discipline needed to master the complex physical and vocal techniques of this ancient art. As the two boys mature, they develop complementary talents: Dieyi, with his fine, delicate features, assumes the female roles, while Xiaolou plays masculine warlords. Their dramatic identities become real for Dieyi when he falls in love with Xiaolou, who fails to fully reciprocate Dieyi’s affections and marries a courtesan, Juxian (Gong Li), creating a dangerous, jealousy-filled romantic triangle.
Spanning 50 years from the early 20th century to the Cultural Revolution, Kaige’s Academy Award-nominated film (it was up for Best Cinematography and Best Foreign Language Film in 1994) captures the vast historical scope of a changing country and a heartrending, provocative love story that defies classical gender traditions.
“’Farewell My Concubine’ is truly one of the most influential films of the 20th Century,” said Film Movement president Michael Rosenberg in a statement. “We are pleased to bring one of the landmark achievements of China’s fifth-generation filmmaking movement to the big screen in this incredible 4K restoration which not only brings the lavish sets and costumes to rich life as never before, but also restores Kaige’s original, unedited vision for his film.”
Along with “Farewell My Concubine” Film Movement has recently acquired “Green Night” starring Fan Bingbing in a dark thriller; “20,000 Species of Bees,” a 2022 Silver Bear winner from Spain; Tunisia’s Oscar submission “Under the Fig Trees”; the feature documentary, “Art Talent Show,” Proxima Grand Prix Award winner at the 2022 Karlovy Vary International Film Festival; and Kamila Andini’s Indonesian period drama “Before, Now & Then,” winner of the Silver Bear Award for Best Supporting Performance at the 2022 Berlinale.