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M. Butterfly is a 1993 romantic drama film directed by David Cronenberg. The screenplay was written by David Henry Hwang based on his play of the same name. Jeremy Irons and John Lone star, with Ian Richardson, Barbara Sukowa, and Annabel Leventon. Loosely based on true events (see Bernard Boursicot), the film concerns René Gallimard (Jeremy Irons), a French diplomat assigned to Beijing, China in the 1960s. He becomes infatuated with a Chinese opera performer, Song Liling (John Lone), who spies on him for government information under orders from the Chinese government. Their affair lasts for 20 years, with Gallimard all the while apparently unaware (or willfully ignorant) of the fact that in traditional Chinese opera, all roles are performed by men. Eventually, Gallimard betrays his country and is tried for treason, which forces him to face the truth about his relationship. Faced with the unbearable truth that his lover is actually male, he himself takes on the role of Butterfly, the...
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