Temptress Moon

Director: Kaige Chen
Screenwriters: Wang Anyi, Kaige Chen, Shu Kei

Institute History

  • 1997 Sundance Film Festival


In a dark riverbed, a rowboat glides sleekly through the pitch-black water, The perspective is low, and as the boat slinks past, the full moon adjusts in the slippery wake. This unforgettable shot begins Temptress Moon, Chen Kaige’s (Farewell, My Concubine, Yellow Earth) astonishingly beautiful and eloquently poetic melodrama.

The rowboat is headed for the palatial Pang estate. Arriving is Zhongliang (Leslie Cheung), the brother of the heir’s wife, who learns he was summoned only to be a lower-class servant who prepares opium pipes for his sister and the Pang elder son, Zhengda. While high one night, Zhengda forces Zhongliang to kiss his sister, triggering events that lead Zhongliang to Shanghai, leave Zhengda brain dead, and force the Pangs to turn the household over to a woman (Gong Li). Chen’s latest masterpiece is an inspired collaboration with virtuoso Australian cinematographer Christopher Doyle. Though Temptress Moon is graced with lavish sets, gorgeous costumes, and superb performances, especially memorable is Doyle’s dreamy, expressive cinematography. Chen’s epic film, banned in China for allusions to contemporary politics, is a feast for eyes and mind.

— Genevieve Villaflor

Screening Details

As you use our Online Archives, please understand that the information presented from Festivals, Labs, and other activities is taken directly from official publications from each year. While this information is limited and doesn't necessarily represent the full list of participants (e.g. actors and crew), it is the list given to us by the main film/play/project contact at the time, based on the space restrictions of our publications. Each entry in the Online Archives is meant as a historical record of a particular film, play, or project at the time of its involvement with Sundance Institute. For this reason, we can only amend an entry if a name is misspelled, or if the entry does not correctly reflect the original publication. If you have questions or comments, please email [email protected]