Page 11


Avis % %..r ….9410trgeRlt…1711 14,91,71/ in self-deception. How could Gallimard have been intimate with Song for almost 20 years and still believe that his lover was a woman? His case is a stunning pitch for the importance of sex education, though his pompous pronouncements about geopolitics suggest a man who does not allow ignorance to undercut his confidence. More striking than the notion that Song invents himself as Gallimard’s delicate “Butterfly” is the realization that Gallimard, stubbornly oblivious to physiology and politics, himself created a Song in his heart, an enigmatic Asian beauty he could cherish and serve. As the feckless Gallimard, Irons in effect reprises a role he played earlier this year. In Louis Malle’s Damage, Irons is Stephen Fleming, an ambitious member of the British Parliament whose rise to the prime ministership is arrested by a scandalous passion for his own son’s fiance. At the end of Damage, his career, marriage and life are in tatters, and Fleming does not even get the girl \(Juliette port, he makes the devastating admission: “She was no different from anyone else.” Like Proust’s Swann, he realizes too late that he has squandered his life on an unworthy illusion, an ordinary woman he has not managed to transform into the paragon of romantic adoration. “I’ve wasted all this time on just a man,” admits Irons’ Gallimard as he and Song are driven off in a patrol wagon. It is the saddest moment in the film, one in which all masks are bared and the accountant’s exquisite butterfly is seen as just another grubby moth. The scene obviates the epilogue that follows, in which Gallimard stages an elaborate, operatic performance in prison, fulfilling the ominous prophecy of Madame Buttetfly. The final the. atrical flourish is both unnecessary and historically inaccurate. It adds little to the film’s haunting demonstration of how the most enduring delusions are the ones we devise ourselves. Farewell, My Concubine, too, ends with a dramatic gesture, the actual reenactment of a lethal scene from a popular opera. Instead of Madame Butterfly, the work is Farewell, My Concubine, a staple of the Beijing Opera that is set in the third century B.C. and recounts the fateful love that a courtesan named Yu Ji has for the doomed King of Chu. The film’s two main characters are stars of the Beijing Opera, specialists in the roles of Yu Ji and the King of Chu. It traces the lives of the two performers, Cheng Dieyi Zhang through 50 tumultuous years. The story is an elaborate flashback from 1977, when Cheng and Duan reunite, 22 years after they last performed together. We cut to 1924, during the warlord era, when two boys become fast friends at the All Luck and Happiness Academy, a school for the performing arts ruled by a brutal martinet. Cheng’s mother, a prostitute, had abandoned him there. Because of his delicate features, he is assigned to sing women’s parts, while his robust buddy is given male leads. “I want to be with you the rest of my life,” says Cheng to Duan, but the vagaries of history and the human heart undermine the permanence of their relationship. Renowned for their interpretations of the devoted concubine and her defeated king, Cheng and Duan perform together through the Japanese occupation, the civil war between Nationalists and Communists, and the early days of the People’s Republic. In 1966, during the ideological purges of the Cultural Revolution, each is pressured to denounce the other. Like the opera for which the story of Cheng and Duan serves as a fitting frame, Farewell, My Concubine is a study in constancy amid mutation. “I am by nature a boy, not a girl,” sings Cheng Dieyi, the stage name adopted by Douzi, a man playing the part of the woman Yu Ji. He is forever flubbing the line to read: “I am by nature a girl, not a boy.” Is there any essential self, and is one’s sexual identity fixed? Cheng’s seems broken, by the vicissitudes of politics and personal affection. When Duan marries a prostitute named Juxian as it is when zealous commissars demand he betray both his wife and his best friend. At the same time, the pressures of ideology and popular taste erode the conventions of classic Beijing Opera. Director Chen Kaige’ s sumptuous film, which was adapted from a novel by Lilian Lee, is rich in the tensions and rivalries between art and life. Farewell, My Concubine was initially banned by Beijing after its triumph last spring at Cannes. It is likely to endure as a monument to flux. Statement of Ownership. Management and ….. Circulation IA Tr. of INAIlosA.A The Texas Observer la rumen. so. a ow. w raw Sep. 30, 1993 0 0 I LLI 1 9 3. nseuaoso Woo Biweekly except for threeweek interval between issues in January and July 3A. , ot Iowan 25 X Ann. SobscrosAsedAss 53 2.00 Csfoossfs M., AA…. of …AA Whoa of NW*, oll..A. two. to*. 3…… I Id, Om. 0…..1 307 Wont 7th St., Moan, Toasts, Texas 78701-2917 s MIA,Alb… N.r MosfloosAs. ..M. .. 1.* I 307 newt 7th St., Multi% Trawl., Tex. 78701-2917 0 I. Ms.. wCf000lo WA.. *se of KAY., MI.. or. AAA., gam* TM Om MOM NOT 111.11 ….. lo.. . Co… 46.. Ai.. Ronnie Nuttier, 307 Vest 7th St., Suet/14 Texas 76701-291.7 f Louis Dub…, 307 West 7th St., Austin, Texas 18701-2917 uaew \(s.. ow.. C.* or* 4.8..0 none Ws W ‘wet…. *Om 4 1 …. met of swat toosom *FAH. If A. fwd., mom. At AA. f ,…….. e ……. fro a*. a mg ru We 4 A. …. ….. …. V. I.M.m……. m.o. …me. *am Warm on A Iv ,.sellII…. …. II hi Now Coo*. Ma., Atess lignile Busier .30.7.1eat.2113.33.s_8li7lin s Taxas28301.2917 I. ……… I.e.g… we 1,11W SO01111, …V Pon, of fn.. I …In ” f”.. ” 3…………………. ….. It Any oto Afwo. sr or. NO N.I. Goy.. Want ….. WO rer ….wet te POMIVOII M.1.1 TO I… Soo. Ones KUM Loom 04 f. Aga . woofs. Anchoo sod Aso* Mt. el thfs ergonostoo sof AA roof twos no 40.1.1 Aeons los Amasses $1.1.1 I 0 ::”.:,”=”‘ 1::::,:=1 Lt,. Iv ……1 var.. ort…. 4 fowl sot Nom. of CotolaffsA f3Af ……… As mom M. A pm No Colon ,:l………1 Ap ras o. ns ..Ctogl .M. gr . A … FM Comm 0. M. .4 7,543 8,800 . lina. lIssosssioCocol.sio I. Seen @Mem. deeMos v. mimes. rant mofis.1 fortf tfooloo tMs 247 230 I. ato wows.. OW moNfAnoonwAl ——5.1936 7,663 7.673 C LA* ft.:. mew iwww c.c…. 6… 4 mei oat Ma, 6,183 D. 1… fAltAwAsso too IAN, Como et Othof M……AA., co…….safy, 40th.. Cooks l Toosl o…. 8..4 c …r or 661 6,824 3i4 7.987 r c ar ra omr…….111. owe…. sob. OW 145 568 , a .IM,wx N. gm. 2611 27,5 0 TOT I. 13..4 t II ad 3Affil …1 en pow ems AA, esI 7,543 8,800 I. I artily nut the @momnta made by me above sow comet and complete tew co…, C. 1 son, bliener re Sow 3626. e, I.11 aft Ausfsroom as from/ Tell a friend about The Texas Observer. The best advertisement for The Texas Observer is a rec ommendation from a friend. Please let us know if some one else might be interested. Name Address City State Zip I enclose$32for a one-year subscription. Bill me for $32. Send a sample copy to the address above and say it’s from: $3 enclosed for each back issue. Please indicate dates: Some popular issues: Henry Ross Perot: Hit or Myth David Duke and White SupremMolly Ivins guest-editor issue Out and About: Gays in Texas For information call 512/477-0746 or write: The Texas Observer, 307 W. 7th St., Austin, Texas 78701 20 OCTOBER 29, 1993