Essence Of Mahayana Buddhism The Dalai Lama introduces the beauty of Buddhism to not only those interested in Buddhism but also fellow travelers on the road to enlightenment. The Dalai Lama... See full summary »
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A drama based on the autobiography by Li Cunxin. At the age of 11, Li was plucked from a poor Chinese village by Madame Mao's cultural delegates and taken to Beijing to study ballet. In 1979, during a cultural exchange to Texas, he fell in love with an American woman. Two years later, he managed to defect and went on to perform as a principal dancer for the Houston Ballet and as a principal artist with the Australian Ballet.Written by
Schull, Amanda who plays Li's wife Elizabeth--the American dancer who leaves him to audition for the San Francisco Ballet--was herself a member of the SF corps de ballet until she retired in 2006. See more »
The Company headquarters and studios, as depicted by the Sydney Carriage House, was a far ritzier set of digs than the Academy had in the early 1980s. Posters depicting The Lady And The Fool, and Two Pigeons, were accurate portrayals of the company's offerings in those years. At the time The Houston Ballet Academy was very small. It was half of a strip mall on Colquitt near the intersection of Kirby Drive and Richmond Avenue, which from the outside looked relatively crowded. A more spacious West Gray venue, which they obtained several years later, was about the size of a blimp hangar. That location was later replaced by condominiums after the company moved to the Center For Dance, downtown next to the Wortham; yet the Colquitt building still stands. See more »
Bruce Beresford is one veteran Australian director who can produce popular films, and this one is definitely a crowd-pleaser, at least for the crowd that likes to watch dance. The story itself (naïve young dancer from totalitarian regime defects to the freedom of the West) is pretty hackneyed but is framed by some exquisite dancing scenes. My former Red Guard colleague "Robin" thought that the protagonist Li Cunxin was a bit of a goose, for, given his extraordinary talent, if he had gone back to China he would have reached the top of the dance establishment. Instead, seduced by the shopping malls and high rise of Houston as well as by a young American dancer, and outraged when he discovers the Party has lied to him about America, he defects, causing a minor diplomatic incident and cutting himself off for the time being at least from his family. Still, he was only 18 at the time.
The two actors portraying Li, Chengwu Gao as a boy and Chi Cao as an 18 year old, do excellent work, given that neither is a professional. In fact all the Chinese actors were terrific. The American / Australian support cast was OK (Jack Thomson reprising his good ole legal boy act, Kyle Maclachlan playing a straight role), though I found Bruce Greenwood as the Houston Dance Company director Ben Stevenson mildly irritating. One does see his point, however, about most of the Chinese dancers being athletes rather than artists. There were some sloppy aspects. Some of the Houston scenes were filmed in Balmain, Sydney, green street signs and all, which by no stretch of the imagination looks anything like anywhere in Houston. Yet Beresford filmed in Houston, and went to considerable trouble to film in China. The Qintao village scenes are beautifully composed and the very last scene shows how Beresford must have convinced suspicious local party officials that he was making a movie they could approve of. I guess he didn't show them the scenes with the Madam Mao–like character chucking her weight about.
It's not mentioned in the film, but it's well known that when Li's dance career came to an end he re-trained as a stockbroker, an unlikely "happy ever after" scenario. He now lives in Melbourne. Beresford and Jan Sardi based the script on Li's own best-selling memoir and there's no doubt they have added something, if only some great ballet scenes – the extract from Stravinsky's "Firebird was fabulous.
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