Film: 'Méi Lánfāng' ('Forever Enthralled')
Date and Time
Wednesday, March 9, 2011 from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.
Copley Library Seminar Room
San Diego, CA 92110
Inevitably recalling director Chen Kaige's 1993 masterpiece, the international smash "Farewell, My Concubine," the sumptuous period epic "Forever Enthralled" (originally titled "Méi Lánfāng") dramatizes the life of Lánfāng, widely regarded as one of the most legendary opera performers in all of Chinese history. Though a male, Lánfāng built his reputation on the basis of outstanding performances as female characters, and in fact, lived out his private life buckling under the weight of repressed emotions. Kaige structurally divides the epic into segments. The film commences with a 70-minute sequence that depicts Méi's reaction to a letter from his uncle, cautioning him against the dangers of an operatic career; in the years that follow, Méi recoils from social rules (wrought by his chosen profession) that severely restrict his actions. The narrative then moves forward in time by a decade, to a point where Méi has somehow managed to bound over the said limitations and establish himself as the single most popular opera star in all of China. Conflict lingers, however -- present in Méi's repeated on-stage duels with the performer Swallow 13 (an apocryphal character who represents a composite of several real-life figures), whose style is the polar opposite of his own. Kaige then moves ahead in time to explore Méi's efforts to juggle a second marriage to Fu Zhifang and his relationship with his manager, Oju Rubai, whose passion for Méi's on-stage craft (and, possibly, a desire for Méi himself) know no bounds. Sadly, a pitfall to Méi's familial security soon presents itself in the form of a young female admirer, Meng Xiaodong with whom he lapses into a love affair.
–Nathan Southern, Rovi
Mandarin with English subtitles. Click here to view trailer.