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LI LIANYING - THE IMPERIAL EUNUCH

Hong Kong, 1991 (MIFF 1991, Hong Kong)

Director: Tian Zhuangzhuang

From Tian Zhuangzhuang, the director of Horse Thief, comes this unique re-telling of the long reign of Tz'u-hsi, the Empress Dowager of turn-of-the-century China, as seen through the memory of Li Lianying, her chief eunuch.The story slips back and forth in time within a forty year scope, as the elderly Li remembers scenes from his life in the Forbidden City, serving the "Old Buddha", as Tz'u-hsi was often called. Li is a very powerful figure in her empire, more powerful than the Emperor himself. Although a slave, he is also adviser, confidant and trusted friend.

This strange and fascinating relationship between empress and eunuch, spanning decades of Machiavellian manoeuvres, executions, betrayals, and the ever-increasing encroacliment of the Western world, is beautifully played by Liu Xiaoqing (Red Sorghum) and the always wonderful Jiang Wen in the lead roles. By turns a tender, pitiless and ultimately tragic tale, sumptuously designed and photographed, Li Lianying, the Imperial Eunuch is a fresh and unexpected angle on this well-trod historical epoch. What's also notable about this colourful and lavish period piece is that Hong Kong and mainland Chinese filmmakers co-operated to place die best talents from both industries into this seamless co-production.

"I prepared for playing Li Lianying by reading everything I could find about the man himself and by spending many hours talking with a real-life eunuch, one of the last survivors from the Imperial Court. From him, I learnt that eunuchs, being neither male nor female, had incredibly rich fantasy lives. They became something more than ordinary people, dreaming a world of their own into existence." - Jiang Wen

See also...

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SOUTH OF THE CLOUDS

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delamu

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THE BLUE KITE

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A rival to Jung Chang's Wild Swans as the most moving and convincing account of the realities of life under Mao's regime, The Blue Kite remains banned and unseen in China. Tian Zhuangzhuang's work ha… More »

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