Mao’s Last Dancer
There are two traps that films based on true stories can easily fall into; the ‘too long and drawn out trap’ and the ‘this story has no credibility trap.’ This story of Li Cunxin’s life from being the son of a poor farmer to becoming an internationally acclaimed ballet dancer initially seems destined for the long and drawn out trap.
Fortunately for those who preserver, the arduously long beginning of the film is just the building blocks for what turn out to be a surprisingly gripping drama that encompasses a whole range of themes including global politics, petty local politics and love in it’s widely varied forms.
The tag line on the DVD case (along with the trailer) ‘Before you can fly, you have to be free…’ are a little misleading. Implying that only through leaving China did Li manage to achieve greatness. This is an outdated mindset that I wish Hollywood would get over. The reality of this wonderful story is that Li did not start out as a dancer – in fact was not physically built for the strenuous training required to become one – but rather, when presented with the opportunity to become one (and bring honour to his family and village) jumped at the chance.
It wasn’t an easy road for Li, and a road he would unlikely be bale to take had he been born in America, but through dedication and the regimented approach of the Chinese school he was interned in, Li discovered that he had the ability to dance.
Of course it was in America that he found fame and freedom, but he also found his fair share of negative influences.
But back to the film itself. Despite the slowness of the first half, the story explodes with passion around half way and never lets you look back till the end. A fine ensemble of actors along with a well crafted and amazing true story make this a worthwhile watch.
Reviewed by: Jonathan Read
Release date: July 7th, 2010
Stars: Chi Cao, Joan Chen, Kyle MacLachlan, Bruce Greenwood, Amanda Schull, Jack Thompson, Aden Young
Length (Minutes): 127
Aspect Ratio: 1.78 : 1
Supported Audio: Dolby Digital Surround 5.1
Director: Beresford, Bruce
Studio: Roadshow Entertainment