Friday, May 14, 2010
Mao's Last Dancer....ROCKS!!
Well to begin with, there's my favorite Chinese actress Joan Chen, there's what I used to do aka ballet (excuse me, I was a ballerina and I was intending to go to the Royal Academy of Ballet), there's great dancing, there're ballet guys with tight asses and even tighter pants, and an incredible story line of silent triumph.
BB didn't want to watch it with me when I pointed it out to him cos he said "I don't wanna watch another Billy Elliot movie"...grrr...it's NOT Billy Elliot. Billy Elliot is about a boy who wanted to dance in a culture where ballet is sissy and he made it nonetheless after some struggle. Mao's Last Dancer was about a life changing experience of being randomly picked to attend the Peking Arts Academy and therefore escaping extreme poverty. It accounts the story of ballet maestro Li Cunxin's journey into the world of ballet which later brought him into the kaleidoscopic Western world where he went to America as an exchange student. Set in the 70s to 80s, the Sino-US political back drop set the stage to portray the dwindling end of the Chinese cultural revolution with Chairman Mao's death and the beginning of China's slow opening to the rest of the world as Deng Xiao Ping took over. The film also showed Li's unfortunate run-in and struggle with the Chinese government officials when he decided to stay in the US and he was subsequently barred from returning to China. (It made major news around the world during then).
With a cast of professional dancers, it's expected that the dancing would be excellent but they've also proved to be multi-talented thespians who did a great acting job. Lead actor/dancer Chi Cao was hand-picked by the real Li Cunxin himself to play the part and it was a job well done indeed. I actually think he looked a wee bit like Hong Kong kungfu star Donny Yan! And with cinema veteran Joan Chen in it, you can't expect anything less than perfect performance. She played Li's mother to perfection, depicting the shy, pure and simple nature of a village lady with so much finesse that it's hard to believe she's the same glamour puss who acted in the movie The Last Emperor of China. And Bruce Greenwood took the role of Ben Stevenson, the American choreographer who discovered Li...Bruce mimicked Ben Stevenson's slightly effeminate and gay-ish demeanor with so much gusto that I actually found myself looking up on IMBD to see if Bruce Greenwood is actually gay.....and coming from a resident fag hag, that's a great accomplishment.
Production quality was good as it suited the theme but the only complaint I have was that the shopping mall scene where Li just went to America as it was a bit too modern looking...it didn't look old enough. But I'm nit-picking here. Aussie director Bruce Beresford did an excellent job and the juxtaposing of Li's childhood memory and his new life in the brave new world in America make great contrast. This is so far the best movie I've watched this year (yes, it's only May) and I'm definitely gonna get the dvd when it comes out. I gave it 4.8 stars out of 5!
It got me so hyped that I started looking for youtube stuff on Li Cunxin (he currently lives in Australia and has switched job to become a full-time stockbroker....I know I know..but he's a great guy). And I found this interview he did and it's such an interesting one cos he talked about his poverty-stricken childhood like how he had to eat tree bark cos there was no food and how the communist propaganda had brainwashed him so much to believe the West was horrible and China was the greatest etc.....it's here and you've got to watch it....even if you're not interested in the film, it's cool to listen to what he's got to say about life in China and I've heard similar tales and fables from my grandma and dad too....Enjoy it!