Based on a true incident involving a French diplomat who carried on an affair of 18 years with a man that the diplomat thought was a woman, M. Butterfly begins in 1964 Beijing, when French foreign service employee René Gallimard (Jeremy Irons) becomes smitten with Chinese opera songster Song Liling (John Lone). Before long Gallimard is enamored with Song Liling and they begin their Affair to Remember, but bracketed by the condition that Gallimard will not be allowed to feast his eyes upon Song Liling sans clothes. Gallimard agrees to the strictures but, as he climbs up the diplomatic ladder, the Communist government gets into the love affair, corralling Song Liling to become an informant for the government. When Gallimard's lust can no longer be contained and he demands nudity, Song Liling runs out of Gallimard's life and he becomes a lovelorn husk, forever pining for his lost love. He leaves China and accepts a two-bit diplomatic job, but then Song Liling appears again to Gallimard, just in time for Gallimard's arrest and subsequent sensational trial for treason, which exposes his affair for the sham it is.
Continue reading: M. Butterfly Review
Ever since Short Cuts won accolades, we get a yearly version of this movie, a sometimes thoughtful collection of stories, none large enough to stand alone as a feature film, some to slight to merit any attention at all. Between Strangers mitigates this problem by focusing on the stories of three women, all wrestling with past mistakes or old regrets.
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Closer to an update of West Side Story than anything else, what makes this rendition of the "two star-crossed lovers" saga stand out is dialogue which is largely faithful to the text set against a post-modern backdrop frighteningly reminiscent of Los Angeles. While it's a thrill to watch (if you can avoid a headache), it's maddeningly hard to follow and considerably self-conscious. Plus there's the issue of a soundtrack that's probably sold more copies than the film did tickets.... Will this version survive the test of time? Probably not, but it will forever stand out as an amazing and powerful experiment in filmmaking.
Continue reading: William Shakespeare's Romeo Juliet (1996) Review