Synopsis by Sandra Brennan
This entry in the British Film Institute-sponsored international centenary celebration of cinema -- in which noted directors presented a film exemplifying their country or region's cinema and its origins -- represents China, or rather one aspect of the country's large body of work as seen through the eyes of Hong Kong filmmaker Stanley Kwan. Kwan uses the film as not only a means to examine the role of homosexuality and transgender issues in the films of China, Hong Kong and Taiwan, but also to look at the evolving roles of family and cultural attitudes in Chinese society. Kwan begins the film on a personal note by recounting a number of early and innocent encounters with men that led to his fascination and love of them. As a film-buff Kwan was fascinated by the almost exclusively male world of Hong Kong action cinema and by the almost homoerotic (in his opinion) bonds formed by the heroes. To further his theories, Kwan also cites the widespread use of swords, knives and other phallic symbols in the story. From there Kwan moves to films in which women portray men and men portray women (as in Farewell My Concubine), ending the film on a more personal note.