Combustible Celluloid
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With: Jeremy Irons, John Lone, Barbara Sukowa, Ian Richardson, Annabel Leventon, Shizuko Hoshi, Vernon Dobtcheff
Written by: David Henry Hwang, based on his play
Directed by: David Cronenberg
MPAA Rating: R for sexuality and a brief bloody sequence
Running Time: 101
Date: 10/01/1993

M. Butterfly (1993)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Winging It

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

A French diplomat, René Gallimard (Jeremy Irons), in Beijing, China in the 1960s becomes enthralled with Peking Opera singer Song Liling (John Lone) after a performance of Madame Butterfly. He begins an affair, but things are not quite as they seem. One of director David Cronenberg's few missteps, M. Butterfly had the audacity to depart from the filmmaker's horror and genre work, but it had other problems. One is that, because Lone was a known commodity, audiences were never fooled by his rather masculine appearance, and the Gallimard character is so easily deceived (or deluded) that it can feel frustrating. The other problem was one of timing, as this came on the heels of two similar, and far more successful movies, The Crying Game and Farewell My Concubine. These issues aside, however, it is a truly handsome film, showcasing the director at the height of his talents. And its themes of sexuality both explored and repressed would anticipate Cronenberg's next film Crash.

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