.East Palace, West Palace is a remarkable film. In 1997 the Chinese government put its director, Yuan Zhang, under house arrest and confiscated his passport. His friends smuggled the movie out of the country so that it could be shown at the 1997 Cannes film festival. We are at once talking of a film with political and artistic implications.
The movie is tightly focused on a nightlong interrogation of a gay man, detained in a public park by a policeman. The political ramifications are clear, implying not only a broader indictment of the repressive regime in China, but also addressing the issue of intolerance of human differences everywhere.
On the more personal level, East Palace, West Palace explores with unexpected sophistication and intimacy the expression of emotional and sexual feelings through the personal history related by the protagonist, even as he seduces his captor. Beautiful camerawork, top notch acting, and wonderful use of sound, music, and interposed theatrical images combine to make this a revealing, touching, and convincing exposition on the complexities of love.
It seems only fair to alert potential viewers that the pacing is slow as the film gradually builds in intensity. Patience is required, but it is also generously rewarded.