Eight years ago, Zhang Ziyi soared into public consciousness as the tempestuous heroine in Ang Lee's Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. She's continued to score in sumptuous epics like Hero, House of Flying Daggers, and The Banquet, as well as off-beat pleasures such as Seijun Suzuki's Princess Raccoon. (Let's all try to forget Memoirs of a Geisha, shall we?) In her latest film, which opened in China last week, she plays a Peking Opera singer.
Forever Enthralled is the English title of Mei Lanfang; the name of a real-life, internationally-recognized opera star well-known for playing female roles over the course of a career that lasted more than 50 years. Leon Lai, a veteran Hong Kong actor and pop singer, takes on the challenging assignment to play the legendary character, while Zhang plays fellow performer Meng Xiaodong, who was known for playing bearded men (?!). The two singers met, married, became parents, and divorced, all between 1925 and 1931.
At a press conference (pictured above, thanks to Ziyifilms), Zhang said: "The hardest thing is walking, wearing these really tall boots ... I practiced that for a very long time." All that practice paid off. Variety Asia Online reports that the film is "on course to quality for a hit," though it probably won't break any records.
Chen Kaige directed; years ago he made Farewell My Concubine, * also set in the opera world. More recently he ventured into epic action territory with the spectacular misfire The Promise. My friend Todd Brown at Twitchposted the Forever Enthralled trailer, which looks like a great match of stars, director, and material. IMDb lists Miramax as having US theatrical rights, though it's not listed on their site. I hope we get to see this one without having to wait forever.
* UPDATE: Title corrected. Thanks to Larry for pointing out my mistake.