Our Rating: ★★½☆☆
L Factor: Gender Bender
Short Take: Love story about a Chinese opera singer in the 1930s and her relationship with her crossdressing cousin.
Alternate Titles: Youyuan jingmeng
Year: 2001
Duration: 120 min
Language: Hong Kong/Chinese
MPAA: Not Rated
Director: Yonfan
Writer: Yonfan
Starring: Joey Wang, Rie Miyazawa, Daniel Wu, Brigitte Lin, Yonfan, Zhigang Zhao

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Peony PavilionThe original ‘Peony Pavilion’ was a 19 hour long epic Chinese opera, and this film gives us a similar love theme with the story of Jade (Rie Miyazawa), an opera performer who becomes the fifth wife of a nobleman in 1930’s China. She’s really in love with her husband’s cousin Lan (Joey Wang, Swordsman III), a woman who dresses like a man. Their courtship is presented in a traditional Chinese opera style, with little dialog and long musical sequences.

But both women also have relationships with men. Jade has a fondness for one of her butlers, and when we jump forward several years to see Lan working as a teacher (and no longer dressing as a man), she has a torrid affair with another male teacher. This crushes Jade, who longs for the days when she was most happy – performing for audiences with the devoted attention of Lan.

The film is long at more than two hours and can be confusing as it moves between different time frames. The costumes and cinematography both won awards in Hong Kong, and it’s a production that is beautiful to watch, but the pace is very slow. Joey Wang is stunning as Lan in a tuxedo though! Narrated by Brigitte Lin (Dragon Inn, Peking Opera Blues, Swordsman III). (AB)