M. Butterfly David Cronenberg

Available previously only on VHS and Laserdisc, David Cronenberg's coolly received M. Butterfly finally makes it way to DVD with a flawless dual-layered digital transfer that captures the colour and cinematography of the larger scale production respectfully. It seems odd, however, that it would take so long for a studio release by a respected director to make its way to DVD, especially given its overall cohesion in the face of the verbally clunky, award-winning, Broadway production of the same name, that it was based on. You see, contextually, M. Butterfly came out following the success of Neil Jordan's thematically similar Oscar-nominated film, The Crying Game, which also delved into a romantic dalliance between a seemingly heterosexual man and a transsexual. Where Jordan's film relied on convincing the audience that Jaye Davidson, the transsexual character, was a woman, Butterfly sought to examine a French diplomat's (Jeremy Irons) suspension of disbelief and wilful delusion when confronted with homosexual desires. Within the text of this film about forbidden love, cultural barriers, gender construct and eventually, espionage, the audience is not expected to buy that Song Liling (John Lone) is a woman, given his visible five o'clock shadow and raspy drag queen voice. Therefore, it seems that a generalized lack of audience discernment, in addition to dominant cultural anxieties about homosexual eroticism, led to the financial and critical failure of a smartly constructed film about female sexuality and subordination as male fantasy construct. Perhaps the final scenes in the paddy wagon and prison strain narrative credulity, and dialogue such as "only a man could be such a perfect woman" is a little too on-the-nose, but subtlety and realism seem secondary to themes of identity and social construct. Also included with the DVD release is an interview with David Cronenberg where he discusses how this film came to be and how he became interested in the material. (Warner)