Monday, October 8, 2012


"As the BLO production of MADAMA BUTTERFLY fast approaches (it goes into rehearsal today!) we will see many more blog entries connected to Puccini's great piece and our production of it. Today we start a weekly post entitled "Butterfly Goes to the Movies" in which we explore Hollywood's fascination with the tangled and dramatically ambiguous relationship (usually erotically charged between East and West and the complexities of Japan's culture (particularly with the almost obsession curiosity about the world of the geisha.)" - John Conklin, BLO Artistic Advisor


M BUTTERFLY (1993) directed by David Cronenberg with a screen play by David Henry Hwang based on his play of the same name. With Jeremy Irons and John Lone

"Only a man knows how a women is supposed to act" from "M Butterfly"

A compelling telling (somewhat fictionalized) of the incredible (but true)story of a French diplomat's infatuation with a Chinese opera performer. Believing (or deluding himself?) that Song Liling is a women, he carries on this obsessional affair for 20 years. From the NY Times review by Janet Maslin "...(the film) works best as a fascinatingly cold -blooded assessment of love...This Frenchman views Asians with such condescension that he is deeply gratified by the fantasy of a passive Asian lover. But when the love affair turns to bitterness and betrayal, Gallimard at last tells the unmasked Liling "You're nothing like my Butterfly" "Are you sure?" Liling asks. The film can be seen as a dark, unnerving exploration of that answer.

The film certainly has it's flaws(the pacing is often annoyingly slow, the tone often flat and distancing) but the lead performances are in the end mesmerizing and its direct connection to the themes, story and music of Puccini's opera make it particularly relevant for a viewing now.

'spoiler alert' - this is the shocking and violent (and moving) climactic scene of the film

An interview with the playwright in which he discuses the script's connection to the Puccini. In the DVD extras there is an interesting interview with David Cronenberg (This is in some ways a very untypical Cronenberg film- he is responsible for some of the most elegantly shocking, oddly witty, and truly scary "horror" films - "Dead Ringers", "Scanners", "The Fly")

Although not a very high quality video , in this scene from the Broadway production of the play as performed by John Lithgow and B J Wong on a Tony award broadcast, it is interesting to contrast Lithgow's rather brash, rather "American" take on the part with Iron's cool reserve . And the dialogue exchange has a very pointed connection to MADAMA BUTTERFLY.

Read more here on the "real" Gallimard

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