M. Butterfly

Film

Comedy drama

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Time Out says

Despite initial surprise that Cronenberg was to film David Henry Hwang's play about an affair between a French diplomat and a she-male Chinese opera singer, links with the horrormeister's earlier work soon become clear. It's disappointing, however, that Cronenberg's dissection of the extremities of desire and the slippage of sex roles is less radical than in, say, Dead Ringers or The Naked Lunch. In pre-Cultural Revolution Beijing of the early '60s, René Gallimard (Irons), inspired by a performance of Madame Butterfly, projects on to singer Song Liling (Lone) a cultural imperialist fantasy of compliant Chinese womanhood. For reasons that remain obscure, he/she responds by recreating him/herself in this image, acting out a parody of submissive femininity and initiating a bizarre but mutually fulfilling charade. Blackmailed by a party official into obtaining political secrets, Song Liling later draws her lover into playing his own double role as a spy. Only when their espionage is revealed in a Paris court does Gallimard discover his lover's best-kept secret.
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Release details

UK release:

1993

Duration:

101 mins

Cast and crew

Editor:

Ron Sanders

Cast:

Barbara Sukowa, Jeremy Irons, Annabel Leventon, Ian Richardson, John Lone, Vernon Dobtcheff

Director:

David Cronenberg

Cinematography:

Peter Suschitzky

Production Designer:

Carol Spier

Screenwriter:

David Henry Hwang

Producer:

Gabriella Martinelli

Music:

Howard Shore

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