[Last Time I Saw] Behind The Forbidden City (1996)

Behind The Forbidden City poster

English Title: Behind The Forbidden City
Original Title: Dong Gong Xi Gong 东宫西宫
Year: 1996
Country: China
Language: Mandarin
Genre: Drama
Director: Zhang Yuan 张元
Writers: Wang Xiaobo 王小波, Zhang Yuan 张元
Cinematography: Zhang Jian 张健
Si Han 司汉
Hu Jun 胡军
Zhao Wei 赵薇
Rating: 5.8/10

It’s my second time watching this film, the first time was almost 10 years ago. Still this gay-theme film remains to be shocking and controversial at the same times.

For the pros, I love its poetic atmosphere from its cinematography, lightning arrangement and the limited setting made it close to a play; and theme-aside, Yuan Zhang’s directional abilities continue to surface from this film, the main scene is a small police office in Beijing where there is a fierce confrontation between a camp gay writer and a night-patrol policeman, which narrates the story of the life of the gay man. Usually I feel antipathetic against groups stereotyping as in this case, not every gay is campy, nevertheless in the film with its narrative novelty, it evolves into something could be perceive as some kind of funny performance art.

For the cons, the intrusions of Chinese opera are functionally essential but visually redundant. Judging from the conversations (especially from the policeman, a boring performance from Jun Hu), the director stands firmly as an outsider with some detectable mocking attitude, which damages the visceral influence to some extent.

A Chinese film explicit exploring of gay world in 1996 itself could be concluded as a both adventurous and smart strategy, although I don’t like the film as a whole, it did help Yuan Zhang establish his status as an avant-garde Chinese director, who later films like GREEN TEA (2003), I LOVE YOU (2003) and LITTLE RED FLOWERS (2006) are more mainstream and carry his own trademark, a superior feeling towards his objects (un unmarried master-degree female, the monomaniac struggle between a young married couple, the kindergarten children respectively).

P.S. – The film is adapted from a short story by the late Chinese novelist Xiaobo Wang, which I haven’t read yet.



One thought on “[Last Time I Saw] Behind The Forbidden City (1996)

  1. Pingback: [Last Film I Watched] Spring Fever (2009) – Cinema Omnivore

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