This motion picture epic is the latest triumph from the critically acclaimed director of FAREWELL MY CONCUBINE. Praised as another masterpiece, TEMPTRESS MOON is a captivating story of a beautiful young woman, her seductiv... more »e lover, and their struggle for power, passion, and revenge -- so shocking, it was banned in the director's own country! Highly provocative and filled with unforgettable sensual imagery, TEMPTRESS MOON is an absolutely riveting cinematic experience -- don't miss it!« less
"Set in China during the 1920s, Temptress Moon is a brooding Gothic tale about innocence corrupted, love betrayed and the collision of traditional Chinese culture with modern Western ways, played out as an elaborate 'battle of the sexes'. The film's concept is almost as ambitious as that of its predecessor, Farewell My Concubine, but where Farewell My Concubine succeeded brilliantly in communicating both its personal and political aspects, Temptress Moon tends to get stuck in its own convoluted story line and repeated viewing is required to be able to fully appreciate it. Nevertheless, those patient enough to do so will be richly rewarded as this is a masterpiece in disguise, not least due to its stunning photography and the three lead actors' brilliant performances. Following the death of their parents, 13-year old Zhongliang (Leslie Cheung) is invited to live with his older sister and her husband, the heir of the wealthy Pang family, in their sprawling country mansion. He soon finds himself in the position of a virtual slave who has to wait on them hand and foot. When his brother-in-law tries to force him into an incestuous relationship with his sister, he poisons him and flees to Shanghai where he becomes a gigolo who makes his living off sleeping with married women and then blackmailing them. Meanwhile, the head of the Pang family has died and since the heir has been reduced to a vegetable by Zhongliang's poisoning attempt, his sister Ruyi (Gong Li) becomes head of the family in his place. Since she is only a 'weak' woman, her distant relative Duanwu (Kevin Lin) is appointed to be her servant in order to aid and effectively control her. Duanwu is, however, besotted with Ruyi and when she seizes control of the family's fortunes in an unexpectedly assertive way, he supports her 'shocking' actions, bravely facing the family elders' wrath. His hopes are dashed, however, when Zhongliang, by order of the triad boss he works for, returns to the Pang mansion and sets out to seduce the innocent (but very willing) Ruyi in order to lure her back to Shanghai with him. The cynical gigolo plays to her rebellious nature by educating her in Western culture but soon, to his horror, finds himself falling in love with her. Panicking, he tries to extricate himself from the web of deceit he has woven but it is too late and tragedy ensues. Temptress Moon is one of the few films that allowed tragic Hong Kong star Leslie Cheung (Farewell My Concubine, A Chinese Ghost Story, Happy Together) to display the full range of his impressive acting skills. He plays the doomed and damaged Zhongliang with disturbing intensity, from the dashing gigolo who is so full of hate that he won't allow himself to feel any emotions to the tormented young man who, when he finally does fall in love, is forced to confront his inner demons and is destroyed by it. He shines even in the smallest scenes, like when he slouches at a dancehall table and tries to seduce a young girl into dancing with him but then abandons the idea when he realises that she is crying. Without saying a single word he conveys a wealth of conflicting emotions that most other actors wouldn't be able to express if they had so many lines of dialogue to help them along. It is a pity that many people still seem to be unable to see past his 'pretty face' and realise what an exceptional actor he was underneath. As for the others, the great Gong Li is excellent as always in her poetic portrayal of the innocent but spirited Ruyi who tries to find her way in a hostile and oppressive environment and Kevin Lin gives a superb performance as the naïve Duanwu who, through betrayal and humiliation, turns from loyal and devoted servant into a devious brute."
The Great Wall
MICHAEL ACUNA | Southern California United States | 01/21/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Gorgeous, decadent, sensual, at times psychologically incoherent, Kaige Chen's "Temptress Moon" is nothing if not always fascinating to watch because at the very center of this film, at it's core, is a story about family, desire and the things we do to each other in the name of love.
Set mostly in Shanghai in the 1920's when China was opening up to the world outside of it's borders, it is reminiscent of Bertolucci's "The Last Emperor," in it's surface beauty and rich, idle, beautiful characters: Zhonglaing (Leslie Cheung), a gigolo and his cousin Ruyi (the incandescent Gong-Li) a recent heiress. Chen is a director who is more interested in showing than telling and his images are so dynamic and surprising that they smack you in the gut.
"Temptress Moon" is a film of uncommon grace and beauty, more of a tone poem than a symphony perhaps but always deserving of your time and attention."
Moon over Shanghai
kuroneko1 | Istanbul Turkey | 08/30/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Temptress moon takes us to the pre 2nd world war China where emperor still ruled and powerful families lived in big lands with many servants and employees. Story starts with a young member of the family who flees from home after her sister and her husbands lustful and opium based life that suffocates him. He poisons his sisters husband and flees to Shanghai. He becomes a gigolo who ambushes married rich ladies and blackmails them for a Chinese mafioso. Years later he returns home in order to seduce the young master of the house who was also a childhood friend a sister to him. The lead acting is provided by Gong Li and Leslie Cheung ,meeting one more time after the "farewell my concubine" and executed brilliantly. Scenes are well shot and especially nite time shots of the films opening scenes as well as street shots and hotel ballroom shots of Shanghai is impressive. Gong Li and her faultless innocence and Cheung's troubled sophistication and regret draws the main lines of the story and it journeys throughout the film, leaving us in curiousity of "what will happen in the next scene ?" The real surprise of the film is the unexpected ending that really adds to the overall success of the film. An alternative story of love and hate which will get your emotions going."
Love on the (Opium) Rocks
Edward Lee | 08/02/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Chen Kaige creates another period masterpiece with TEMPTRESS MOON, the story of a wealthy family struggling to maintain their history on the outskirts of Shanghai.
Due to her brother's condition resulting from an addiction to opium (or so we're lead to believe), Ruyi (the ever glowing Gong Li) is granted leadership over the family fortune at a time when women were relegated to secondary roles. However, Zhongliang -- a close relation now grown up and playing a con man to perfection in Shanghai -- returns home to bilk her out of the family fortune at the demand of his boss. When Zhongliang discovers he has fallen in love with her, he chooses to alter her fate ... but his choice only secures his own fate in the eyes of the triad he serves.
MOON is wonderfully photographed, though this image transfer is a bit grainy at times. It is a contemporary 'Romeo & Juliet,' with gangland influences and wonderful period photography. The lovemaking -- while pushing the boundaries in a mainstream foreign release -- is relatively tame but beautiful captured with powerful emotion and vivid lighting. At points, the film feels almost like a narrative valentine to the family and the viewer; but don't look for any happy ending here.
The ending poses a small handful of tight flashbacks that gives new meaning to some of the events depicted in the film, defining more greatly the motivations of the main characters, once again demonstrating how meaningful small decisions are in the pursuit of daily life and how tragic their consequences may inevitably be in the day, months, and years ahead.
While it arguably may be a bit hard to follow at times, TEMPTRESS MOON nonetheless delivers as a truly spectacular, moving experience that should not be missed."
A tangled web of love and deceit.
Alejandra Vernon | Long Beach, California | 06/23/2000
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This film has a slow start, but it sets the stage for the later development of the central characters. Gong Li and Leslie Cheung, two extraordinary actors, are incredibly beautiful to look at, and the chemistry between them is palpable. The relationships in this movie are so complicated...there are multiple triangles...that one viewing is simply not enough to do it justice. This one has to be seen a second time, and it will be well worth it."