User Score

Generally favorable reviews- based on 10 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Positive: 8 out of 10
  2. Negative: 1 out of 10
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  1. Sep 10, 2010
    This review contains spoilers, click expand to view. It's like something straight out of Mel Brooks' "The Producers", the ballet dancers equipped with their armaments, but "Springtime for Zedong" is no laughing matter, and nobody knows that better than Chan(Su Zhang), who wants his dancers' pieces to remain apolitical. During a performance for party dignitaries, the Beijing Arts Academy instructor makes his opinion known with tears; Chan's dissatisfaction with the company's new direction will seal his fate as a condemned man, a counter-revolutionary, when in fact, he's merely an aesthete, a man who descries bad taste and is chafed accordingly. Bad taste? That's how Brooks made his name back in 1968, as "The Producers" caused a commotion for its light-hearted depiction of the Nazi party, but "Mao's Last Dancer" helps explicate what Brooks was lampooning: government-sanctioned art. Red, a color that can symbolize a wide array of things in art, is reduced to a single connotation in the propaganist-inspired art direction which bedecks the transformed stage, and that's why Chan wants to steal the color back from the political arena, and back to the personal one where it rightfully belongs. Chan can't save ballet, so he saves the ballet dancer from being compromised by ideology; he chooses Li Cunxin(Cao Chi), the academy's most promising pupil, whom the teacher wants to re-educate, since the dancer participates in the Cultural Revolution's campaign against intellectualism, by giving his young charge a tape. Whereas the video in Gore Verbinski's "The Ring"(the American remake of Hideo Nakata's "Ringu") used Soviet montage to kill the viewer, Chan unleashes a grainy image of Mikhail Baryshnikov in action to kill the ideology that infects Li's mind before it reaches his heart. It's the pivotal moment in "Mao's Last Dancer" because the contraband tape westernizes this child of Mao Zedong and the People's Republic. He learns "art for art's sake"(Oscar Wilde's rallying cry against intervening philistines), in Baryshnikov's leaps, turns, jumps, and pirouettes, and unlearns art for China's sake. Exposure to the legendary Russian danseur gives Li the edge over his compatriots when Ben(Bruce Greenwood), the director for the Houston Ballet tours post-Zedong China. That's because the farmer's son from Shangdong Province dances like a westerner. Although Li Cunxin's story is one worth knowing, "Mao's Last Dancer" is predictable every step of the way, just like any biopic, take your pick("Ray", "Walk the Line", "The Buddy Holly Story"); we know how it's going to end. By the time Li's parents see their son perform live in person for the first time, the moviegoer knows that Chan's long-term plans for the flexible primary color is complete. As the expatriate hugs his parents on the theater stage, nobody remembers what red was for back home. Because now, red is a free agent; red is love. Expand
  2. Nov 9, 2011
    A well-made, well-acted and interesting adaptation of the true story that is just as good as the book.

Mixed or average reviews - based on 23 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 11 out of 23
  2. Negative: 1 out of 23
  1. Three actors portray the clumsy-but-limber Li in the years of his arduous training, when he is pulled between a teacher who's inspired by Mao and another who's inspired by bootleg videos of Mikhail Baryshnikov.
  2. Reviewed by: Ella Taylor
    Likable as this full-hearted and uplifting movie is, though, I wish that Beresford had not fallen into the familiar trap of dividing Chinese characters into two roles: brutal, ideology-spouting apparatchiki; or parable-spouting, salt-of-the-earth proletarians, the better to show off by contrast the open society of the West.
  3. Noble but dull.