Mao’s Last Dancer
(PG) Roadshow DVD/BD
Chinese ballet star Li Cunxin’s epic journey from rural China and deprivation as a child to international stardom on the world’s stage is fraught with hardship and difficulty. This film by Bruce Beresford, adapted from the best-selling autobiography, is an efficient and well-made look at a life torn between two civilisations.
On the one hand, Cunxin needed to leave the constricting confines of China’s totalitarian regime, where he “danced about Chinese propaganda”, to realise his creative freedom in the US; on the other, once he defected he was unable to visit the family he loved.
This somewhat clichéd film hits all the right beats for maximum emotion-stirring impact, though it never quite reaches the strength of screenwriter Jan Sardi’s other work Shine.
Moving in the places it is meant to be, Cunxin’s story is a powerful manifesto to the nature of personal freedom and what must be sacrificed to achieve it.