Mao's Last DancerGoofs
Errors in geography
When Li and Ben are driving past downtown, the camera motion indicates they are southbound on Interstate 45 (Gulf Freeway), with the Allen Parkway/Milam St exit in view, and downtown Houston on the left (east). Li is clearly looking upward out of the passenger window, facing west, away from downtown, as he utters, "Fantastic". Perhaps he was reacting to the Allen Parkway and Buffalo Bayou, which are west of that location, but it was not evident in the shot.
In the book Li spoke of Ben's apartment close to the studio, which at the time was near the intersection of Kirby Drive and Richmond Avenue, on Colquitt. The movie has Ben Stevenson in a rather large, opulent ranch style house in a spacious subdivision resembling Houston suburbs of Sugar Land or Katy. The book indicates his apartment was located in the older mix of residential and commercial properties within Montrose, West University, The Heights, and Galleria.
About halfway through the film, Li Cunxin is eating at a Chinese restaurant. He asks Liz to try something he calls "vegetable from sea." However, the brown morsel he places between his chopsticks and in her mouth has the shape, color and texture of a piece of a Shiitake mushroom or another type of fungus.
The Company headquarters and studios, as depicted by the Sydney Carriage House, was a far ritzier set of digs than the Academy had in the early 1980s. Posters depicting The Lady And The Fool, and Two Pigeons, were accurate portrayals of the company's offerings in those years. At the time The Houston Ballet Academy was very small. It was half of a strip mall on Colquitt near the intersection of Kirby Drive and Richmond Avenue, which from the outside looked relatively crowded. A more spacious West Gray venue, which they obtained several years later, was about the size of a blimp hangar. That location was later replaced by condominiums after the company moved to the Center For Dance, downtown next to the Wortham; yet the Colquitt building still stands.
The film does not show Houston as it was 1981-86. For instance, when Cunxin first arrives in Houston, he and Stevenson drive past a Ferris Wheel, which did not exist in 1981. Many of the buildings were not there either. In addition, the Wortham Center was not complete until 1987. From 1969 to 1987, the Houston Ballet danced in Jones Hall, which is still in use for many other performances. However the Director may have chosen Wortham considering it architecturally and environmentally more grand, and timing off by only a year. Beresford may not have considered the environs of Jones Hall as attractive. There may have also been time and budget constraints on researching old photos of downtown, using CGI, etc.