Farewell My Concubine: Self-Identification in Context Essay

1749 Words Nov 24th, 2010 7 Pages
Directed by Chen Kaige, a highly acclaimed fifth-generation Chinese film director, Farewell My Concubine has received many international film awards and nominations; among them are the Best Foreign Film and the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival in 1993. In the film, Cheng Dieyi, a Peking Opera actor playing the leading female characters, becomes obsessed with his role as the concubine of the King of Chu and blurs his stage role with the real life he leads. The circumstances in which one grows up in are critical factors in shaping his or her sense of self-identity. This paper attempts to explore the gender identity troubles that Cheng Dieyi has undergone in his self-identification and sexuality in the context of the environment of his …show more content…
Most male dans merely imitate these feminine acts on stage, but Cheng Dieyi gradually transforms these “acts” into an unconscious habit of his. “The repetition of the stylized female acts embedded in female impersonation and the rigid and violent regulation of these acts eventually bring about Cheng Dieyi’s unconscious identification with Yuji, concubine of the Chu King, constructing in him a feminine sexuality and identity.”

Opera performers at the time were expected to play their stage roles for life. Dieyi’s most notable performance is an epic opera named Farewell My Concubine; it tells the story of the King of Chu (Xiang Yu) and his faithful concubine Yuji. Xiang Yu knows that he has lost to his enemy and drinks with Yuji on the last night. Yuji performs a sword dance for him and then cuts her own throat with his sword to express her faithfulness to him. As Dieyi continues to play the role of Yuji into this professional career, he begins to blur the life of Yuji’s character and his own. This becomes very obvious when Dieyi begins to show signs of affection towards his stage partner, Xiaolou, who plays the King of Chu. In multiple times throughout the movie, Dieyi can be seen looking at Xiaolou with a tender, almost romantic gaze and is especially gentle when he helps Xiaolou apply makeup and dress in costume. His romantic feelings for his “stage brother” are translucent to

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