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Chen Kaige, the director of Farewell My Concubine, returns with another sumptuous, if hard to follow, film about old China. Set in the decadent 1920s, Temptress Moon tells the very complicated story of a wealthy family living on the outskirts of Shanghai. Their youngest daughter, Ruyi, is brought up as a servant to her opium-addicted father and brother. Meanwhile, her brother-in-law Zhongliang has a successful, if illegal, career seducing and blackmailing married women in the city. When he comes to Ruyi's home the two fall in love, and trouble ensues. Mostly, though, Temptress Moon is about beautiful images. The densely populated plot is basically an excuse for showing golden bells and bowls, pagoda roofs set against the moon, and richly woven carpets. More of a meditation than a movie, Temptress Moon is probably not as accessible or enjoyable as its critically acclaimed predecessor Farewell My Concubine, which may be a better place to start in the appreciation of contemporary Chinese cinema. --James DiGiovanna
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