M. Butterfly

Film, Comedy

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.


Release details

101 mins

Cast and crew

David Cronenberg
David Henry Hwang
John Lone
Ian Richardson
Annabel Leventon
Jeremy Irons
Barbara Sukowa
Vernon Dobtcheff
You may also like