Ty Burr
March 25, 1994 AT 05:00 AM EST

M. Butterfly

type
Movie
Current Status
In Season
mpaa
R
performer
Jeremy Irons, John Lone, Ian Richardson, Barbara Sukowa
director
David Cronenberg
distributor
Warner Bros.
author
David Henry Hwang
genre
Drama

We gave it a C

Among other things, David Henry Hwang’s Broadway play was about passion, and David Cronenberg’s adaptation could have used some. Based on the bizarre-but-true case of a 1960s French diplomat (Jeremy Irons) whose Communist Chinese mistress (John Lone) was revealed to be not only a spy but a man, M. Butterfly is a story of desire triumphing over reality. Eschewing Crying Game-style surprises, Cronenberg tips his hand to Lone’s gender early on; the movie thus becomes a meditation on the nature of self-delusion. Unfortunately, in Irons’ gray performance, it’s the tragedy of an uninteresting man. Lone, by contrast, finds the story’s swooning, melodramatic heart, and it’s closer to an old Joan Crawford movie than Cronenberg seems comfortable with. C

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