大太监李莲英 | Li Lianying, the Imperial Eunuch

Li Lianying

Tian admits that this chamber epic was not a ‘personal’ project; for a film which began shooting only a few months after the Tiananmen Square massacre, it certainly feels more like a flight into history than even an oblique response to the moment. Spanning the last five decades of the Qing Dynasty, it centres on the oddly affectionate relationship between Empress Dowager Cixi and her chief eunuch; the stars were a real life couple at the time. The often filmed historical facts are rehearsed efficiently enough: the folly of deflecting naval funds to the building of the Summer Palace, puppet emperor Guangxu’s ill fated bid for autonomy as a reformist and so on. But the film is vindicated by its prime mover Jiang Wen’s colossal performance as Li; no other actor has ever gone deeper into the implications of castration and living as a neutered animal.

Directed by Zhuangzhuang Tian | Starring : Wen Jiang, Xiaoqing Liu, Fan Xu, Xu Zhu, Jiali Ding | Presented at Berlin Film Festival

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