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Mixed or average reviews - based on 23 Critics What's this?

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7.8

Generally favorable reviews- based on 10 Ratings

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  • Starring: , ,
  • Summary: A drama based on the autobiography by Li Cunxin. At the age of 11, Li was plucked from a poor Chinese village by Madame Mao's cultural delegates and taken to Beijing to study ballet. In 1979, during a cultural exchange to Texas, he fell in love with an American woman. Two years later, he managed to defect and went on to perform as a principal dancer for the Houston Ballet and as a principal artist with the Australian Ballet. Expand
Score distribution:
  1. Positive: 11 out of 23
  2. Negative: 1 out of 23
  1. 100
    This first-cabin director returns to top form, with this revelatory film his best in years. More than that, Mao's Last Dancer is a masterpiece.
  2. The delight of this film isn't so much in the tale as the telling.
  3. Reviewed by: Ella Taylor
    75
    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.
  4. It's hard to know whether to take it to task as a film critic or as a dance critic. It isn't that it fails on either level - it's a serviceable movie - but it neither attempts nor achieves much of value.
  5. Reviewed by: Peter Brunette
    60
    Like most films in this underdog genre, the emotional manipulation of the audience is constant and obvious.
  6. A dramatic true story has been made into a diffident biopic.
  7. 30
    The final image - a freeze frame of a pas de deux staged to resemble a triumphal Communist poster - perfectly captures the film's overall effect: it's strenuously brainless.

See all 23 Critic Reviews

Score distribution:
  1. Positive: 5 out of 6
  2. Negative: 0 out of 6
  1. PHL
    Sep 16, 2010
    10
    I agree with Rex Reed. This is a masterpiece. I do not believe the audience is being manipulated. After all, this is based on a true story. It's a moving story and depicts the triumph of art, freedom and knowing your own heart. Chi Cao is magnificant. Expand
  2. Jun 30, 2011
    10
    I loved this movie, and I don't usually like stories based on true stories. It was definitely a masterpiece and I can't wait to watch it again. I'm not much into ballet but the story was so good that I enjoyed every minute of it. I even has a tear in my eye at the end of the movie because it touched my heart so much. Must see! Collapse
  3. Oct 3, 2010
    9
    This beautiful film is based on true events. A young Chinese boy is selected to be trained as a ballet dancer. He travels to the US as an adult and becomes a star. When he decides he wants to stay here, it ignites an international furor. The performances are all solid and the story (although somewhat predictable) is told with skill and emotion by director Bruce Beresford. NOTE: I actually saw this in Sweden, but had a translator to help with the Chinese parts. Expand
  4. Nov 9, 2011
    6
    A well-made, well-acted and interesting adaptation of the true story that is just as good as the book.
  5. Sep 10, 2010
    5
    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

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