An American missionary priest in 1938 China, on the brink of revolution, is drawn into a relationship with a beautiful, and married aristocrat.
Genre: Feature Film-Drama
Release Date: 24-AUG-2004
Media Type: DVD
Modern view of oppressive traditional Chinese way of life
Linda Linguvic | New York City | 07/31/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I remember reading Pearl Buck's "Pavilion of Women" as a child and loving it. I've forgotten the details of the plot long ago. But I do remember it was about Madame Wu, a wealthy Chinese woman who, on her 40th birthday, decided to stop marital relations with her husband and find him a young concubine. At that time 40 years old seemed very old to me. Now it seems quite young.This 2001 adaptation of the novel is set in 1937 and was filmed in China and partially financed by the Beijung Film Studios. The Chinese actress Yan Luo not only stars as Madame Wu, but also helped write the screenplay and produce the film. She's beautiful and stately and gives a fine performance. Willem Dafoe is cast as a village priest who runs a local orphanage. They are attracted to each other and the inevitable happens. But that is only part of what the story is about. Basically, it's about the oppressive world of the old-fashioned traditional Chinese family. And the future promise of communism. I read the book a long time ago and don't remember such a strong emphasis on communism. But this film is, after all, produced from a modern Chinese point of view.Many critics hated this film, called it too slow and too romantic. And all of them objected to the fact that the characters spoke English. I usually would agree with all those objections. It IS an overblown soap opera after all. However, I found watching this film a delight. I loved the opulent world of pre-communist China that I remember so well from Pearl Buck novels, including the acceptance of the concubine. And I liked the fact that the bedroom scenes were much more explicit than what was hinted at by Pearl Buck. I just relaxed and let myself be part of this fantasy world for a little while. And even though the film was a full two hours long, I never was bored.Taste is personal, of course. And even though I can't understand why I enjoyed Pavilion of Women so much, I do recommend it."
Miss Buck would be rolling in her grave (if possible) ...
mafreund | New Jersey | 07/19/2002
(1 out of 5 stars)
"Do I have to give it a star? Awful, just awful. No other words could describe this terrible adaptation of the book it is named after. It is so far removed from the original that one can't help wonder what Pearl Buck would be thinking if she were alive today.The characters are the same in name, only. I don't understand why the screenplay had to deviate so greatly. Mr. Wu went from being a happily married man (who, by the way, did not want a concubine to begin with) to an opium depraved sex-aholic bent on receiving as much oral sex as possible by whatever means possible. Why was there a need to color this man with such depravity? The beauty of the book lies in the richness of the allegories that Pearl Buck so intricately wove into the story. Mrs. Wu's love for Father Andre was the love of his spirit and being. It was who the man was and not what he was physically made of. Father Andre was Christ-like in his devotion to his calling in China. There was never any hint of a sexual attraction to Mrs. Wu.The recent adaptation of "Mansfield Park" came to mind when I watched this movie. Another disastrous attempt to adapt a classic and beloved book to today's morally vacant mind-set. After watching both of these movies I felt violated and betrayed. Shame. Shame."
Chinese and Western cultures collide in '30s romance
Grant A Thompson | 09/15/2002
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Anyone who liked Zhang Yimou's "Raise The Red Lantern" is a prospect for "Pavilion Of Women". Whereas "Raise The Red Lantern" explores merely Chinese taboos about marriage and concubinage, "Pavilion Of Women" centres on a romance between leading characters in whom both Chinese and Western mores collide. This is a cross-cultural romantic story adapted from a book by the prolific American writer on China, Pearl S. Buck, set in the late 1930s. It is a cross-cultural challenge to the audience, as much as to its characters. Many Chinese would say that its romantic plot was unthinkable or impossible in the 1930s--which is, of course, part of the point of the story. Western fans of Pearl S. Buck might be irritated by deviation from her book. However, this film has first class cross-cultural direction and acting, and was beautifully photographed on location in elegant settings of old Suzhou. It is a fine example of what the Chinese film industry can achieve in co-production. The DVD has high quality picture and audio, but could be improved with special features such as biographical and production notes."
Captivating story with luscious backdrop
Ping Lim | Christchurch | 06/02/2001
(4 out of 5 stars)
"The year was 1938. China was on the brink of war with Japan, & communist was gradually gaining its headway with the Kuomintang. Among these backdrops was the story of a Roman Catholic priest (played by William Dafoe), who was also a doctor & a Sinologist (who spoke & wrote Chinese) that had been sent to China to convert Chinese into Christianity & managed an orphanage. By accident, he met the female Chinese interest of this story, a 40 years old lady from a well-to-do family. She had enough taking care of her good-for-nothing husband for almost 30 years. She decided to buy a young girl from the countryside as a mistress to replace her so that she could do her own things then. Upon arrival, the young girl met the son of the lady & instantly, they fall in love with one another. Alas, it was not meant to be considering that the young girl would soon enough become the son's second mum. As the thing went for the wealthy family, English lesson was regarded highly & thus, William's character was employed to teach the son English & other complementery subjects as long religion wasn't discussed. Soon after, the lady & the mistress joined the son for the lesson & gradually, they broadened their knowledge, learnt of their individual rights. As time went, both parties warmed up with one another. The climax came when the mistress attempted to commit suicide for not being able to be with her lover (ie. the son), the son decided to leave the family household to join the Communist to liberate the Chinese people, the lady decided to leave her husband to be with William. Just like many endearing love stories (Madam Butterfly was actually mentioned in the movie itself), an unthinkable incident occurred. What would happen to those characters? It's for the readers to find out. The title of "Pavillion of Women" signified the low status of women during the Chinese heydays, of women spending almost their entire life within the house compound. In the movie, you would observe that the girl from the countryside wasn't been given a name by the family but rather been called a derogatory "liability", jeered at for having a big foot; the decadent lifestyle which allowed the husband marry more than one wife, the norm of prostitution; the significance of preserving face in the Chinese culture; the recluse lifestyle which the rich & famous people lived & thus, them losing touch with the downtrodden ordinary people; the importance of family hierarchy rather than individual rites (as the son put it succinctly in the movie: the sun is his grandmother, the earth being his father whilst his mom is the moon always clinging to the earth but revolving around the sun). A very well done Chinese movie (joint venture between Beijing Film Studio & Hollywood) with superb acting by all actors & actresses combined & beautiful scenery & cinematography (possibly taken at ZhouZhuang with those canal houses as depicted by Marco Polo centuries ago)."
Love the movie!
Shanti Pangestu | USA | 03/04/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I rented this movie because Pearl S. Buck (the author of the novel for which the novel is based on) is my favorite author.
I read Pavilion of Women about 10 years ago and I still remember the plot and characters of the novel. I love it so much. I was skeptical when I rented the movie because I was afraid the movie couldn't keep up, but I was wrong. Even though reading the novel will give you intimate details, the movie entertained as well."