6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Meet the god-like danseur noble, Li Cunxin,
This review is from: Mao's Last Dancer (Blu-Ray) (Blu-ray)
MAO'S LAST DANCER (2009) is yet more proof why I ADORE anything, anything, filmed Down Under - and makes me angry that we have to wait up to 2 years to see or hear tell of any of it. It is a fine family film that deserved a G rating (I don't know what it got, and can only hope the UK saw and heard of it).
This is the biography of famous Australian, Chinese-born Li Cunxin (played by real-life ballet star Cu Cao, a/k/a Chi Cao), based on his autobiography of the same title. This great Australian danseur noble - now a stockbroker and proud father of three boys - hand-picked Cao to play him in the film. Cao, a spectacular actor in his film debut here, in real life is a stunningly beautiful danseur noble with the Birmingham Ballet (danseur noble is what the 'male ballerina' is called, for all you ignorant ones out there).
Cao's parents were both teachers of the real Li Cunxin during his student days at the Beijing Art Academy in the 1970s until around 1980. This stunning though occasionally corny movie tells the truly dramatic story of Cunxin's life, from his boyhood in a China filthy with communist politprop to his now-celebrated 1986 performance in Houston. The film elegantly flashes back to Cunxin's childhood and teen years, and I am at a loss to comprehend how they found such beautiful boys to play him at ages 11 and 14.
His defection to the U.S. in Houston caused an international incident, with some sort of hostage situation at the consulate in Houston - it is portrayed very well here. I admit, I do not recall any of this. I was busy watching Baryshnikov back then. This film, while rich in the deep poetry of ballet, is also rather dismissive of details.
Nothing is ever fully explained at any point and we are left to sort of guess at the events. Why ballet director Ben Stevenson (a brilliant Bruce Greenwood sporting a perfect British accent) is in bed with the Chinese government; why the Chinese are even doing Western ballet at all during this time; all kinds of unanswered details.
To me, because this is an Australian production, the film is too accepting of Maoism and the subsequent, slightly less radical communism in China. Certain scenes apparently showcase China's 'communist greatness' and that made me feel sick. Why people round the world keep doing this I know not. All I know is communism is an evil that ought to be blighted forever.
A powerful cast blooms around the jade-like, gorgeous Cao: Kyle macLachlan as internationally famous immigration attorney Charles Foster; Jack Thompson in a speaking cameo as the judge who helps Cunxin defect; Joan Chen as Li Niang, Cunxin's mother; a terrible Camilla Vergotis as Mary, Cunxin's second and present wife; Su Zhang as Cunxin's classic ballet Teacher Chan; and the beautiful Guo Chengwu as a teen Cunxin. The rest of the names would drive me mad to list here.
Get this and revel in the beauty that is ballet, the people, the acting, and the locations. It is a tightly shot stage-like teleplay, yet they make it work perfectly as film. We could learn a lot over here (U.S.) from the Australians.