Screen adaptation of the acclaimed Broadway play. A French civil service officer risks and then abandons everything in his life in his obsessive pursuit of an enigmatic Chinese opera diva who harbors a secret.
James Morris | Jackson Heights, NY United States | 05/31/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Puccini's opera Madama Butterfly is the catalyst behind this fictional version of the bizarre true story of the relationship between Bernard Borsicot, a French diplomat, and Shi Pei-Pu, a Peking opera singer. In the film and play, Bernard Borsicot becomes Rene Gallimard, a low-level accountant at a French embassy, who is promoted to head of embassy intelligence after he inadvertently ruffles some feathers among the espionage staff. The real-life Shi Pei-Pu is known as Song Liling, a singer at the Beijing opera, although the actual events took place in Peking. With a background set among the chaos of China just prior to and during the Cultural revolution, the affair between Boriscot/Gallimard and Pei-Pu/Lilang is used to frame a well-crafted and extremely well-acted story of espionage, love, betrayal, obsession and, ultimately, a dramatic reversal of the tragedy of Madama Butterfly.
Unlike some, I believe that Borsicot/Gallimard probably did not know, or certainly did not want to know, that Shi/Song was really a man. I found John Lone as Song very convincing indeed, even though as a gay man I am very used to being around transgender people, many of whom are not even remotely as credible as Mr. Lone. What is less credible is how young Song looks when she is finally revealed as a man during the brief courtroom scene, since their affair was supposed to last over 30 years, and John Lone appears to be in his late twenties during the trial scene. But this is a minor quibble; the irony of the climactic ending may be lost on anyone who is unfamiliar with the opera that the story parallels, but this does not detract from the compelling nature of the film. The supporting cast is excellent, especially Ian Richardson as the Ambassador and Barbara Sukowa as Gallimard's wife.
A word about the title, which many people refer to as "M Butterfly", as if the letter "M" were itself a word. In French, "M." is the abbreviation for "Monsieur", and the title of the film and play are properly pronounced "Monsieur Butterfly". Thus the irony of the climax is instantly comparable to the opera. Highly recommended. "
"It's the Music,not the Story"
Amaranth | Northern California | 06/02/2009
(4 out of 5 stars)
""M. Butterfly" is David Cronenberg's powerful espionage drama,based on David Henry Hwang's stage drama. Jeremy Irons stars as Gallimard, a French civil servant in Beijing who finds himself smitten with the lovely opera diva Soong Liling (John Lone) Their pillow talk consists of American troop movements in Vietnam, Soong is a secret agent for the Red Guard. Along the way, Soong drops little hints to her true nature. Picnicking on the Great Wall, Soong asks, "Why do you love a woman with a boy's chest?" Soong also tells one of her comrades that men impersonated women in the Beijing Opera because "only a man knows how a woman is supposed to act."
The romance becomes political intrigue. In the end, Soong's identity is revealed and Gallimard commits hara-kiri. In real life,however, both lovers remained alive. The French agent didn't kill himself; in fact,he has gone to numerous stagings of the play and was on the set when Cronenberg's movie was being made.
"M. Butterfly" is a superb work. Irons and Lone are a convincing couple. Howard Shore's soundtrack is sensuous and beautiful. "M. Butterfly" is a fascinating take on East meets West."
Love and Betrayal
Amos Lassen | Little Rock, Arkansas | 02/21/2009
(4 out of 5 stars)
Love and Betrayal
Set against the Cultural Revolution in the mid-1960's in China, a French diplomat (Jeremy Irons) falls in love with a singer in the Beijing Opera (John Lone). Mixed into the plot of love and betrayal are allusions to Puccini's "Madama Butterfly". Rene Gallimard (Irons) quickly falls in love with a seductive female opera singer, Song Liling (Lone) and he pursues her. She is amused by his ignorance of the differences between East and West. She keeps Gallimard at a distance for eighteen years as their affair continues and she teaches him about cultural differences. We get a new twist on the classic opera which is very wicked. The sexual tension in the movie holds throughout probably because we know what Irons as Gallimard doesn't know. This is a haunting film that abounds with passion that is not easily forgotten. The chemistry between the two is mesmerizing. The strangest thing about this movie is that it is based on a true happening yet it is bizarre and compelling at the same time. It is, also, in my opinion the best film that David Cronenberg has directed. He chose a wonderful cast to bring this story to life. John Lone gives an incredible performance and Jeremy Irons is his usual cold and repressed upper class self. The film deals with the state of the Chinese theater during the Cultural Revolution. The characters are intricate who share both commitments to their own hearts and to their country. The question that most people ask is how it is possible to be in love with a woman for twenty years who in reality is a man. When Gallimard, the man, was on trial for cavorting with a spy(Liling), this was the most unbelievable aspect of the case. It seems that Gallimard did not know this because he did not want to know. For two decades, he was in love with the ideal woman of his dreams and did not reality enter his life. Gallimard was influenced heavily by the fantasies of the West that Asian women are submissive. The movie keeps the secret only from Gallimard, the audience knows that Liling is a men. Perhaps this is a flaw in the film and some think the issue of gender should have played like it did in "The Crying Game" but regardless of what anyone may feel, the two lead actors give stunning performances and the costumes and the sets are lush and beautiful, "
An Entertaining, Thought Provoking Divergence with Outragous
Kenneth A. Nelson | Pensacola, FL | 12/24/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I have read all the reviews of "M. Butterfly."
Personally, I think the reviews should accurately describe the film being reviewed, but in this case, I think it's wiser to be brief and not spoil the films twists and turns. I find it strange that there are so many people who can't wait to ruin the surprises for the innocent movie viewer. Off with their heads!!!
There is more than just a plot to interest a person in this film. To me, Jeremy Irons is one of the Best Actors of all time. The entire cast is perfect. After the Actors and story, the visuals are second-to-none. Lush, atmospheric, mood setting and perfect settings for the storyline. The costumes were time-accurate and well done. The music was spectacular without being obtrusive (Chinese Opera scenes exepted).
If you react similiarly to how I did, you'll find yourself with a few new favorite Actors at the end of the film."
Powerful Romantic Tragedy
Paul K. Eversman | East Rockaway, NY USA | 12/07/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Without question, one of the most moving, powerful romantic films I have ever seen. Irons and Lowe play their parts to perfection. Cronenberg creates the perfect mood on elaborate sets and in exotic locations. As the trailer states "Nothing blinds a man like perfect love." Mesmerizing."