M. Butterfly (film)

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M. Butterfly
M Butterfly poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by David Cronenberg
Produced by Gabriella Martinelli
Screenplay by David Henry Hwang
Based on M. Butterfly
by David Henry Hwang
Music by Howard Shore
Cinematography Peter Suschitzky
Edited by Ronald Sanders
Distributed by Warner Bros.
Release date
  • October 1, 1993 (1993-10-01)
Running time
101 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Box office $1,498,795

M. Butterfly is a 1993 American romantic drama film directed by David Cronenberg. The screenplay was written by David Henry Hwang based on his play of the same name. The film stars Jeremy Irons and John Lone, with Ian Richardson, Barbara Sukowa, and Annabel Leventon.[1]


Loosely based on true events (see Bernard Boursicot and Shi Pei Pu), the film concerns René Gallimard (Jeremy Irons), a French diplomat assigned to Beijing, China in the 1960s. He becomes infatuated with a Chinese opera performer, Song Liling (John Lone), who spies on him for the Government of the People's Republic of China. Their affair lasts for 20 years, with Gallimard all the while apparently unaware (or willfully ignorant) of the fact that in traditional Chinese opera, all roles are performed by men.



One theme of the film (as with the play) is Orientalist stereotypes, but Cronenberg removed many of the political overtones from the story in order to focus more intensely on the relationship between Gallimard and Song. A key line in the film is "Only a man knows how a woman is supposed to act."


M. Butterfly grossed $1,500,000 in the domestic box office.[2]

On review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an approval rating of 45%, based on 20 reviews, and an average rating of 5.6/10.[3] On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 43 out of 100, based on 19 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews".[4]

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