China picks 'Forever Enthralled' for Oscars

Chen's biopic of Mei Lanfang stars Zhang Ziyi, Leon Lai

BEIJING -- The People's Republic of China selected director Chen Kaige's Peking opera biopic "Forever Enthralled" to represent it in the annual run for the best foreign language Academy Award, China's Film Bureau announced Saturday.

Chen's ("Farewell My Concubine") biopic of China's most famous Peking opera performer stars Beijing-born pop star Leon Lai in the title role as Mei Lanfang. The film also stars Zhang Ziyi. It is a co-production between China Film Group and Taiwan's China Magnetics Corp. Co.

This will be Chen's third time representing China at the Oscars, having been previously nominated for "Farewell My Concubine" and "The Promise." No Chinese mainland film has ever won the best foreign language award, although Ang Lee's Mandarin-language "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon," entered on behalf of Taiwan, won in 2001.

"Forever" faces two other Mandarin-language entries this year: Hong Kong's pick, Yonfan's "Prince of Tears"; and Taiwan's official selection, Leon Dai's "No puedo vivir sin ti."

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Mei, who died in 1961, made his name playing dan, or female roles, and was the last great male performer to do so after Peking opera was sexually integrated in the early part of the 20th century.