Fleeing by Night | Chicago Reader

Fleeing by Night

Echoes of Farewell My Concubine abound in this tearjerker about a love triangle in the 1930s set against the backdrop of the Chinese-opera demimonde. Shaodung, the cello-playing son of a banker, returns to Tianjin, a port city near Beijing, to see his betrothed, Ing-er, whose father runs an opera theater. Then both fall for Lin, a star of the Kun Opera famous for his eloquent voice and his interpretation of “Fleeing by Night,” an aria about loyalty and love. Directors Li-kong Hsu (who produced The Wedding Banquet) and Yin Chi coyly make homosexuality both taboo (the two men never consummate their relationship) and dangerous (Lin is involved with a jealous, sadistic businessman), though everyone's attracted to Lin's stage persona, not himself. The film never surges in emotional intensity, and it has a confusing narrative frame—the elderly Shaodung recalls past events through a series of letters between him and his fiancee, who eventually married him in New York. The acting is typical of Chinese melodramas—by turns hyperventilating, precious, and sentimental—though Rene Liu gives a knowing, tender performance as Ing-er. 123 min.

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