Video Review

M. Butterfly (1994)

MPAA Rating: R
EW's GRADE
C

Details Movie Rated: R; Genre: Drama; With: Jeremy Irons and John Lone; Distributor: Warner Bros.

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

Originally posted Mar 25, 1994 Published in issue #215 Mar 25, 1994 Order article reprints