banner image

:: Mao's Last Dancer

Bruce Beresford has brought Australia some of most iconic films over the years, films such as ‘The Club’ and ‘Puberty Blues’. He has also wowed overseas audiences with classics like ‘Black Robe’ and ‘Driving Miss Daisy’. With his latest offering, ‘Mao’s Last Dancer’ you once again get the feeling he is going after the international market. Yes there is an Australia feel to the film but you feel that it’s focus on ballet dancing will be more appealing to movie goers in New York than in Melbourne.

‘Mao’s Last Dancer’ follows the life of ballet dancer Li Cunxin (Chi Cao (adult), Chengwu Guo (teenager), Huang Wen Bin (child)) from his time of being selected as a dancer amidst Mao’s Cultural Revolution through to him being selected to dance in Texas as part of an exchange program. Here is under the watchful eye of Ben Stevenson (Bruce Greenwood) and surprises all by falling in love with a young dancer Mary (Amanda Schull). Will Li give up his love and the freedom of America and return to China?

Beresford does an amazing job making ‘Mao’s Last Dancer’ a memorable film. I’m not a ballet film so was dreading the fact the film may have lengthy ballet sequences, but Beresford manages to capture the beauty of the ballet involved so well that you just get wound up in the world and thoroughly enjoy it. A lot of this credit must also be paid to cinematographer Peter James who makes the sequences look truly beautiful, there is a serious case of ‘WOW factor’ about them.

Even more credit should be forwarded to screenwriter Jan Sardi. Sardi does a wonderful job in telling this complicated story in under two hours, and he does an even better job making the character of Li so likeable that you genuinely find yourself barracking for him. The standoff between the U.S. Officials and the Chinese Government is done tastefully and Sardi manages to mix serious drama, dance sequences, romance and political espionage together in such a way he truly needs to be congratulated.

‘Mao’s Last Dancer’ is also exceptionally well cast. The three actors who play Li, Huang Wen Bin, Cengwu Guo and Chi Cao, all do great jobs but the standout is virtual unknown Amanda Schull who is stunning as the love interest. Kyle McLachlan and Bruce Greenwood are good as usual while Joan Chen once again steals the show in an Australian movie with a terrific performance as Li’s mother. Australian audiences will also get a bit of a chuckle out of Jack Thompson’s performance.

Beresford manages to once again create a film of true beauty. This amazing film comes to life with scenes of spectacular dance and intense drama that will captivate audiences both young and old.