Today I talked to my colleagues about the biopic of Mei Lanfang that I reviewed yesterday.
We unanimously agreed Leon Lai as the older Mei was not very good, not even a good actor! What was director Chen Kaige thinking! we all wondered.
But some managed to confirm some facts about Mei for me.
The movie trailers play up the affair between Mei and Meng Xiaodong, another Peking opera performer played by Zhang Ziyi. The film just hints that it's an affair, but in real life they were "married", as Mei took her as a concubine. Apparently he was given permission to do this before the People's Republic of China was founded in 1949.
But we're not sure when she "divorced" him and went to Taiwan to marry a tycoon.
The film also has a main character called San Ge or Third Brother who become's Mei's agent, promoting him. My co-workers say that he did exist and was a major influence in Mei's life.
One colleague felt the section about the Sino-Japanese war was too dramatic, as Mei was appreciated by many Japanese. But I explained to him that plots need tension to create suspense for the audience.
"So critics say the director changed the history too much," he said.
This is probably his most challenging work to date, but fictionalizing history may have been too much, even for Mei Lanfang, who depended on a bit of drama to enthrall his audience.