Chen Kaige (born August 12, 1952) is a famous Chinese film director.
He was born in Beijing, and grew up with fellow Fifth Generation alumnus Tian Zhuangzhuang as a childhood friend. During the Cultural Revolution, Chen joined the Red Guards in circumstances very similar to those depicted in Farewell My Concubine. In 1978 he joined the Beijing Film Academy, where he graduated from in 1982.
His films are known for their visual flair and epic storytelling. His first movie, Yellow Earth (1984), is one of his most famous and important works. Together with Zhang Yimou as cinematographer, the film established itself as one of the most important works of Fifth Generation filmmaking; though simple, its powerful visual imagery and elliptical storytelling style strongly influenced contemporary Chinese filmmaking. The Big Parade (1986) and King of Children (1987) expanded on his filmic vocabulary and are often seen together with Yellow Earth as an early informal trilogy. In 1989, he made Life on a String, a highly esoteric movie which uses mythical allegory and lush scenery to tell the story of a blind er-hu musician and his student.
His most famous film in the West, Farewell My Concubine (1993), nominated for two Academy Awards and winner of the Palme d'Or at Cannes Film Festival, follows two Beijing opera stars through decades of change in China during the twentieth century. Chen followed up the unprecedented success of Farewell My Concubine with Temptress Moon (1996), another period drama starring Gong Li. Though it was well received by most critics, it did not achieve the accolades that Concubine did, and many were put off by the film's convoluted plot line. Almost as famous is his The Emperor and the Assassin (1999), an epic involving the legendary King of Qin and the reluctant assassin who aims to kill him. But Kaige doesn't limit himself to epics, in 2002, Chen made his first, and to-date only English-language film, Killing Me Softly, a thriller starring Heather Graham and Joseph Fiennes, though it proved to be both a critical and popular disappointment. His more recent Together (2002) is an intimate film about a young violinist and his doting father. In 2005, he directed The Promise, which sees him returning to the historical epic.
Chen has also acted in several films, including Bertolucci's The Last Emperor (1987) and his own The Emperor and the Assassin.
Today he stands with Zhang Yimou and Tian Zhuangzhuang as the best known of the so-called Fifth Generation filmmakers, or the Beijing Film Academy's graduating class of 1982.