M. Butterfly

Director: David Cronenberg
Year Released: 1993
Rating: 2.5

A French accountant in China (Jeremy Irons) falls in love with a Peking Opera singer (John Tone) that he believes is a woman but is actually a man - miraculously, this not only took place in real life (to Bernard Boursicot), but the deception went on for years, enabling the singer to leak 'secret' information from Irons' character to the government. A relatively high amount of suspension of disbelief is required for this one, as it's quite obvious that Tone's a male, although as Cronenberg has said, the man this actually happened to knew that his 'butterfly' was not a woman but refused to admit it to himself. This sounds ludicrous to most people, but it raises ambiguous questions about gender identity and sexual identity that few works do - is 'woman' a male construct? is 'heterosexuality' more fluid than fixed? The movie excises much of the Irons character's internal world that was present in the David Henry Hwang play, but the look of (homosexual?) panic, embarrassment and pained self-acceptance on Irons' face - during the final two expressive, exaggerated scenes - is chilling.