Forever Enthralled

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Forever Enthralled
Forever Enthralled Poster.jpg
Directed byChen Kaige
Produced byHan Sanping
Chen Hong
Du Jiayi
Written byChen Kaige
Geling Yan
Chen Kuo-fu
StarringLeon Lai
Zhang Ziyi
Sun Honglei
Masanobu Ando
Music byZhao Jiping
CinematographyZhao Xiaoshi
Distributed byChina Film Group
Release date
  • December 5, 2008 (2008-12-05)
Running time
146 minutes
Budget$15 million

Forever Enthralled (simplified Chinese: 梅兰芳; traditional Chinese: 梅蘭芳; pinyin: Méi Lánfāng) is a Chinese biographical film directed by Chen Kaige; the film marks Chen's eleventh feature film as a director. Forever Enthralled follows the life of Mei Lanfang, one of China's premiere opera performers. It stars Leon Lai as Mei, Zhang Ziyi, Sun Honglei and Masanobu Ando.

Known during production as Mei Lanfang, the film's English title was changed in November 2008, shortly before its release, to Forever Enthralled.[1]

The film was shown in competition at the 2009 Berlin International Film Festival for the Golden Bear award.[2]


Forever Enthralled was produced on a budget of $15 million (US) by the China Film Group and Taiwan's China Magnetics Corporation Company (CMC Company), which had previously helped fund John Woo's Red Cliff and Alexi Tan's Blood Brothers.[3] Unlike Chen's previous film, The Promise, Chen is not re-teaming with his usual producers, Etchie Stroh and Moonstone Entertainment.[3]

Just prior to the film's release in December 2008, Forever Enthralled producer, the China Film Group, ran into legal hurdles after it was sued by another production company, Milimeter. Milimeter claimed that it held the copyright to the film based on a contract signed between the two companies in 2004.[4]

In an interview with Newsweek, director Chen Kaige stated that in contrast with his previous film about Beijing opera, "Farewell My Concubine is fiction" whereas "Mei Lanfang existed in history."[5] In Farewell, Chen had more freedom with the story (based on Lilian Lee's novel), but with the biographical Mei Lanfang, Chen was more careful as the film was made under the blessings of Mei Lanfang's family and Chen consulted with Mei's son about the film's story.[5] Chen revealed that many topics, such as Mei's extramarital affair, were "taboo" to the family, but that Mei's son told Chen to "do whatever you want to do" so long as the film deals with those topics with respect.[5]


Previous casting[edit]

  • Gillian Chung as Fu Zhifang as a young woman; the Hong Kong actress joined the cast of the film as Mei Lanfang's wife shortly after it began principal photography, along with actors Chen Hong and Masanobu Ando, in July 2007.[9] After she completed her scenes, Chung faced some controversy as a result of her involvement in the Edison Chen photo scandal. Rumors swirled that her scenes would be cut due to public outcry, though producers at China Film Group initially announced that they would keep her in the film and that she would participate in the film's publicity.[10] The decision to keep Chung was reportedly met with disapproval by Mei Lanfang's family.[4] By November 2008, the film's producers confirmed that Chung had indeed been cut from the film, thought it was unclear whether the decision was made because of the scandal, or it was made by the SARFT, or was the result of bowing to Mei Lanfang's family's wishes.[1]


The film made its international premiere in competition at the 59th Berlin International Film Festival, where critics called it a "sumptuous" film.[11][12]

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."[13] 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."[13]

However, Variety on the other hand states the film is a "largely workmanlike biopic" that is only "occasionally engaging."[14] Variety describes the film's supporting performances are strong and more so than the leading performances, and the film "rarely achieves the artistic elevation it strives for."[14] The review did however gave praise to the film's production design, costume and cinematography.[14]


  1. ^ a b Lim, Marcus; Coonan, Clifford (2008-11-05). "Chen Kaige "Forever Enthralled" by opera star". Variety. Retrieved 2009-01-05.
  2. ^ Story of Chinese opera star heads up Berlinale Asian lineup. The Earth Times. 01-28-2009
  3. ^ a b Frater, Patrick (2007-05-16). "Chen Kaige to direct 'Mei Lan-fang'". Variety. Retrieved 2007-12-19.
  4. ^ a b Coonan, Clifford (2008-09-15). "Operatic struggle over China biopic". Variety. Retrieved 2009-01-05.
  5. ^ a b c Back for An Encore: Filmmaker Chen Kaige uses opera again to help explain Chinese society. Newsweek. 01-19-2009
  6. ^ CRI (2007-01-06). "Chen Kaige plans to shoot Mei Lanfang biography". China Economic Net. Retrieved 2009-01-05.
  7. ^ China Daily staff (2007-07-21). "Who's In". China Daily. Retrieved 2009-01-05.
  8. ^ Xinhua News Agency (2007-06-07). "Japanese actor added to "Mei Lanfang" cast". Retrieved 2009-01-05.
  9. ^ Coonan, Clifford (2007-07-22). "Trio join 'Mei Lanfang'". Variety. Retrieved 2009-01-05.
  10. ^ Coonan, Clifford (2008-08-15). "Gillian Chung to remain in 'Lanfang'". Variety. Retrieved 2009-01-05.
  11. ^ Mike Collett-White (2009-02-14). "London tale, Iran tragedy lead Berlin film charge". Reuters. Moviefone. Retrieved 2009-02-23.
  12. ^ "London tale, Iran tragedy lead Berlin film charge". Reuters. 2009-02-14. Retrieved 2009-02-23.
  13. ^ a b Lee, Maggie (2009-01-12). "Film Review: Forever Enthralled". The Hollywood Reporter. Archived from the original on January 20, 2009. Retrieved 2009-02-01.
  14. ^ a b c Elley, Derek (2009-01-12). "Forever Enthralled Review". Variety. Retrieved 2009-02-01.

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