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Film Review: Forever Enthralled by Chen Kaige

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Christine Xu
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Film Review: Forever Enthralled by Chen Kaige

Forever Enthralled is a Chinese biographical film directed by Chen Kaige. It follows the life of Mei Lanfang, one of China’s premiere opera performers. The film made its international premiere in competition at the 59 Berlin International Film Festival, where critics called it a "sumptuous" film.

Mei Lanfang was the first one to let Western audiences understand Chinese culture. He traveled to New York and did his show at the 49th Street Theatre. According to Chen Kaige that Mei was very successful. He became a celebrity and he showed what it is to be Chinese. 

The Hollywood Reporter describes the film as "traditional but elegantly mounted," and although less exotic than Farewell My Concubine, Chen "exhibits a firm grasp of subject, sympathetic characterization and a connoisseur's eye for the cultural milieu of 1930s-'40s China.” The review writes the film's art direction as "superb" and states "from splendidly lit interiors to authentic costumes and accessories, evoking the theater culture and literati scene of 1930s Beijing.” Some other reviews  gave praise to the film's production design, costume and cinematography as well.

However, variety on the other hand states that the film's supporting performances are strong and more than the leading performances, and the film "rarely achieves the artistic elevation it strives for.” 

In my lesson, I plan to let my students view a scene from theater culture and literati scene of 1930s Beijing. They will reflect the authentic costumes and accessories of Beijing Opera.

 Also, I will let my students view a scene from the life of Mei in three stages: teenager, young adult in his 20's, and a more matured Mei in his 40's.  They then use a scene analysis framework to explore Beijing Opera and specific costumes for each character.

Then I will let my students to talk about Chinese culture that related to costumes. Students will talk about why in the Beiing Opera costumes are as important as the characters themselves because each piece tells a story.  Students will do presentations that the topics will include history, masks, costumes, roles, and instruments for Beijing opera. At the last class, students will do a Beijing Opera show. Students will perform Being opera for fun.

Sources: wiki