Farewell My Concubine

Leung, Helen Hok-Sze. Farewell My Concubine. Queer Film Classic ser. Vancouver: Arsenal Pulp Press, 2010. Paperback. 129pp. $14.95. ISBN: 978-1-55152-362-0.

Part of the Queer Film Classic series, this small volume is the perfect accompaniment to Chen Kaige’s ground-breaking film of the same name. Released in 1992, Farewell My Concubine won the Palme d’Or at Cannes and was nominated for a Best Foreign-Language Film Oscar. It tells the story of Beijing Opera performers Cheng Dieyi and Duan Xiaolou, whose lives are intertwined from their early days in harsh apprenticeships to their critical acclaim on the Beijing stage. Dieyi trained for dan (female) roles, while Xiaolou performs lead male roles.

In her book, Leung views the film within its historical and cultural contexts, offering insights into the film industry in China, the Cultural Revolution, and the film’s critical reception. The threads of gender performance and homosexuality are followed throughout the text, in this small but dense volume. Leung, Associate Professor in Gender, Sexuality & Women’s Studies at Simon Fraser University in Burnaby, BC, Canada, has written widely on queer cinema.

This book should be included in any collection that holds the film Farewell my Concubine,.and every library should own this unique and provocative film.

 

Reviewed by, Morgan Gwenwald
SUNY New Paltz

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