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M. Butterfly

Jeremy Irons , John Lone , David Cronenberg    R (Restricted)   DVD

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.3 out of 5 stars  27 reviews
29 of 31 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Intriguing Reversal of Classic Opera Story May 30 2009
By James Morris - Published on Amazon.com
Format:DVD
Puccini's opera Madama Butterfly is the catalyst behind this fictional version of the bizarre true story of the relationship between Bernard Borsicot, a French diplomat, and Shi Pei-Pu, a Peking opera singer. In the film and play, Bernard Borsicot becomes Rene Gallimard, a low-level accountant at a French embassy, who is promoted to head of embassy intelligence after he inadvertently ruffles some feathers among the espionage staff. The real-life Shi Pei-Pu is known as Song Liling, a singer at the Beijing opera, although the actual events took place in Peking. With a background set among the chaos of China just prior to and during the Cultural revolution, the affair between Boriscot/Gallimard and Pei-Pu/Lilang is used to frame a well-crafted and extremely well-acted story of espionage, love, betrayal, obsession and, ultimately, a dramatic reversal of the tragedy of Madama Butterfly.

Unlike some, I believe that Borsicot/Gallimard probably did not know, or certainly did not want to know, that Shi/Song was really a man. I found John Lone as Song very convincing indeed, even though as a gay man I am very used to being around transgender people, many of whom are not even remotely as credible as Mr. Lone. What is less credible is how young Song looks when she is finally revealed as a man during the brief courtroom scene, since their affair was supposed to last over 30 years, and John Lone appears to be in his late twenties during the trial scene. But this is a minor quibble; the irony of the climactic ending may be lost on anyone who is unfamiliar with the opera that the story parallels, but this does not detract from the compelling nature of the film. The supporting cast is excellent, especially Ian Richardson as the Ambassador and Barbara Sukowa as Gallimard's wife.

A word about the title, which many people refer to as "M Butterfly", as if the letter "M" were itself a word. In French, "M." is the abbreviation for "Monsieur", and the title of the film and play are properly pronounced "Monsieur Butterfly". Thus the irony of the climax is instantly comparable to the opera. Highly recommended.
12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "It's the Music,not the Story" June 2 2009
By Amaranth - Published on Amazon.com
Format:DVD
"M. Butterfly" is David Cronenberg's powerful espionage drama,based on David Henry Hwang's stage drama. Jeremy Irons stars as Gallimard, a French civil servant in Beijing who finds himself smitten with the lovely opera diva Soong Liling (John Lone) Their pillow talk consists of American troop movements in Vietnam, Soong is a secret agent for the Red Guard. Along the way, Soong drops little hints to her true nature. Picnicking on the Great Wall, Soong asks, "Why do you love a woman with a boy's chest?" Soong also tells one of her comrades that men impersonated women in the Beijing Opera because "only a man knows how a woman is supposed to act."

The romance becomes political intrigue. In the end, Soong's identity is revealed and Gallimard commits hara-kiri. In real life,however, both lovers remained alive. The French agent didn't kill himself; in fact,he has gone to numerous stagings of the play and was on the set when Cronenberg's movie was being made.

"M. Butterfly" is a superb work. Irons and Lone are a convincing couple. Howard Shore's soundtrack is sensuous and beautiful. "M. Butterfly" is a fascinating take on East meets West.
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The "Best" of Jeremy Irons July 13 2010
By Rev. Donna M. Swindells - Published on Amazon.com
Format:DVD
This version of "Madame Butterfly" is not the opera type. This is a heart-breaking love for a Man looking for his perfect Butterfly. It first seems like He (Jeremy Irons) has found his heart's desire. But the truth, (ugly as it is) slowly comes out. His life is in ruins, so is his soul.
The last half-hour is not to be missed, no phone calls or computer on. See this actor take you on a trip you will not forgot emotionally. And a ending that is unexpected and leave your soul wounded as well.
The "Best!"
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars M. Butterfly: A Unique Love Affair and Political Intrigue May 3 2012
By Grady Harp - Published on Amazon.com
M. BUTTERFLY continues to rank among the more important cinematic adaptations of a brilliant play - this one by the playwright David Henry Hwang. Having the pleasure to see two productions of the play - New York and Los Angeles - and viewing the film (1993) in the theater and on Amazon Instant Video brings an immense amount of satisfaction of just how fine this work is and continues to satisfy. The fact that David Henry Hwang wrote the screenplay suggests how true to the original the film is and how much of an impact it makes on the viewer

M. BUTTERFLY is based on a true story that stunned the world. During the Cultural Revolution in China in the mid-1960s, a French diplomat René Gallimard (a brilliant portrayal by Jeremy Irons) falls in love with a Chinese opera singer Song Liling (John Lone) - women were never allowed to sing in the Beijing Opera so the fact that Song is a man is credible. Song Liling touches him with a love as vivid, as seductive--and as elusive--as a butterfly. The love affair is so fragile and respectful that René does not suspect that Song is a man in disguise. René Is an important diplomat with the French Embassy, married to Jeanne (Barbara Sukowa), and is responsible for maintaining the high standards of diplomacy. Song Liling has been placed in the position of an undercover agent to gather secrets from the Embassy about the American plans in Vietnam. As René is promoted he demands to see his M. Butterfly without her clothes, an Song's only protection about her gender identity is to reveal that she is pregnant with René's child and must leave to be with her family until the child is born. AS the Cultural Revolution heightens the French Embassy is to be diminished and it is discovered that René has been in a liaison with with a Chinese spy and is sent back to France to be imprisoned. When he is put on trial Song appears in Paris to be placed on the witness stand and since years have passed since their last meeting, Song attempts to offer herself once again to be René's Butterfly. Whether or not René's passion was a flight of fancy, it sparked the most vigorous emotions of his life. Only in real life could love become so unreal. And only in such a dramatic tour de force do we learn how a fantasy can become a man's mistress--as well as his jailer. In a desperately touching final scene we see the imprisoned René perform the final act from the opera that has accompanied this film - Puccini's MADAMA BUTTERFLY.

The story is at once compelling, explosive and slyly humorous, 'a work of unrivaled brilliance, illuminating the conflict between men and women, the differences between East and West, racial stereotypes--and the shadows we cast around our most cherished illusions.' The musical score by Howard Shore integrates arias and choruses from Puccini's opera with music from Chinese opera and his own sensuously beautiful original musical score. David Cronenberg directs with the tight amount of surreal disbelief the piece needs, but it is the brilliant acting of Jeremy Irons and John Lone that illuminate this film. It is a masterwork. Grady Harp, May 12
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars John Lone Should Have Won an Academy Award April 24 2012
By Heaven's Hound - Published on Amazon.com
Format:DVD
I've just viewed M. Butterfly, twice in fact. Jeremy Irons' performance is quite good; he always delivers as he is now in his role as Pope in The Borgias. But the performance that transfixed me was that of John Lone. I cannot think of a more extraordinary performance. He should have won an Academy Award for so fully and believably transmuting himself into a woman. Every movement, his walk, the use of his hands, his eyes, and above all his voice were in every way feminine. Only a tremendously gifted actor could deliver such a superb performance. And his last scene in the police truck, when he strips and kneels before Irons, well, I can't find the words to describe how powerful, moving and heart-rending Lone's acting is. Yes, Lone indeed did "become" a woman, and he did indeed fall in love. What Irons' character felt, is a tragic irony. Yes, he fell in love with an image, but it was not a lie. He fell in love with the essence of the man Lone represented, and it included the man's anima. Only a man in tune with his anima could deliver such a nuanced performance. And then the very last scene with Irons, here he matches Lone in his performance. Both actors were wonderful, but I have to give Lone the edge: His role was the more challenging, and he does not fail, in fact he more than succeeds. He is a truly gifted actor.

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