Cultures clash in period dance drama. 

Bruce Beresford (Tender Mercies, Driving Miss Daisy) brings the memoir of famed Chinese ballet dancer Li Cunxin to the big screen in Mao’s Last Dancer. At times schmaltzy, Mao’s Last Dancer is nevertheless an enjoyable, if predictably tear-jerking look at one man’s journey from Chinese peasant to a star of the Houston Ballet.

Li begins in the film as an 11-year-old boy in rural China. When he is fortuitously chosen to attend the Beijing Dance Academy, his life becomes a tool of the state: He is classically trained in ballet but schooled in communist ideology first and foremost. These are some of the most interesting moments of the film, as life under Chairman Mao is a fascinatingly foreign existence. The ballets are transformed into political propaganda to suit Madame Mao, and Li’s training is couched in terms of his duty to the Communist Party.

This all changes, of course, when Li is invited to dance at the Houston Ballet in the United States. Ultimately, he is won over by such superficial and stilted clichés as a pretty American girl and the funloving disco life, but he also relishes a genuine feeling of personal freedom. “I dance better when I’m here,” he claims, just at the point when he is obligated to return to China.

What ensues is a battle to keep Li in the U.S., culminating in the Chinese Embassy holding Li hostage for 21 hours. It makes for compelling cinema and will perhaps be an unwelcome reminder of strained Sino-American relations.

For those of us young enough not to remember Li’s story, I’ll refrain from spoiling the film’s ending. Suffice it to say that Chi Cao does an excellent job as Li, the film’s dance scenes are beautiful (to this untrained eye), and the Chinese-American culture clash (aside from the contrived, childlike portrayal of the Chinese peasants) is interesting. If you’re looking for a film with guaranteed emotion and pretty dance scenes that’s also easy to digest, look no further.

Mao’s Last Dancer Opening Friday, September 24th Ridgeway Four
Favorite

Tags:

Mao's Last Dancer
Rated PG · 127 min. · 2010
Official Site: www.maoslastdancermovie.com
Director: Bruce Beresford
Writer: Jan Sardi and Cunxin Li
Producer: Jane Scott
Cast: Bruce Greenwood, Kyle MacLachlan, Amanda Schull, Joan Chen, Alice Parkinson, Jack Thompson, Aden Young, Christopher Kirby and Chi Cao

Trailer


Now Playing

Mao's Last Dancer is not showing in any theaters in the area.

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
    • Death Grip

      Memphis filmmaker Sam Bahre talks about his 11-year struggle to create I Filmed Your Death.
    • Isle Of Dogs

      Wes Anderson returns to animation with this charming fable.
    • Ready Player One

      Spielberg mines the past and present in this virtual adventure

Blogs

Music Blog

MonoNeon Featured in Bandcamp Daily

Hungry Memphis

Parade Kicks Off Hot Wing Festival

Style Sessions

Fashion Week Kickoff in Memphis

News Blog

Memphis Students Protest Gun Violence With Walkout

Fly On The Wall Blog

Wikipedia edit trolls the Tennessee House of Representatives

Hungry Memphis

The Return of Sleep Out Louie's

News Blog

Memphians Respond to State Punishment Over Statues

News Blog

Memphians Rally to Replenish Punishment Funds

ADVERTISEMENT

More by Hannah Sayle

  • Recipe for Success

    Andrew Ticer and Michael Hudman on their new cookbook, Collards & Carbonara.
    • Aug 29, 2013
  • Midtown Magnetism

    Babalu fills in another Overton Square spot; Muddy’s to open on Cooper.
    • Aug 22, 2013
  • Open House

    The historic Magevney House will soon reopen to the public.
    • Aug 22, 2013
  • More »

Readers also liked…

ADVERTISEMENT
© 1996-2018

Contemporary Media
460 Tennessee Street, 2nd Floor | Memphis, TN 38103
Visit our other sites: Memphis Magazine | Memphis Parent | Inside Memphis Business
Powered by Foundation