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Mao's Last Dancer

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IN SHORT: One of the Best of the Year. [Rated . 117 minutes]

Given that a big hunk of this film is in Chinese and subtitled (and at least the other half is in English) this may find itself on the Best of Lists for Foreign Language films I have to check the critic's rules and stuff.

A young boy called Li Cunxin (Wen Bin Huang and later Chengwu Guo) is literally stolen out of his school room by govenment agents and forcibly educated in ballet and modern dance at the behest of the Beloved Chairman Mao. It's just the beginning of a story of a political tool -- shaped to promote Communist ideals by proving the superiority of the commie education system by bringing the world the greatest male dancer of all time.

What they never expected was that, while supposedly under the watch of a 24-hour a day chaperone in Houston (he's on a 3 month student exchange), the boy would discover the wonders of women kind and sneak out to date and fall in love. This first love - Elizabeth (Amanda Schul ) - is not a dancer of the same level as Lin but a secondary character called Mary McKendrey (Camilla Vergotis) is the perfect match.

We don't care about modern dance. We don't care about ballet. Cranky is a 50 year old straight guy who, actually, doesn't find the anorexic look of the femme ballet dancers attractive at all. Yet, this love story, packed with dance sequences that - from time to time we phased out of - brought us to the brink of tears by its end. Those who would decry the reasons for the tears as manipulative are right; it is. But dammit it works.

On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Ten Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to Mao's Last Dancer, he would have paid . . .


We don't oftern hear one critic recommending a film to another, thus ensuring press coverage. We heard it a lot with this film. It's that good

The Cranky Critic website is Copyright © 1995  -  2017  by Chuck Schwartz. Articles by Paul Fischer are Copyright © 1999 - 2006 Paul Fischer. All images, unless otherwise noted, are property of,©, ®, their respective studios and are used by permission. All Rights Reserved. Not to be used or copied for any commercial purpose. Academy Award(s) and Oscar®(s) are registered trademarks and service marks of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.