IMO M. Butterfly is an okay movie, it's fine, the photography is nice and of course it's well directed. However, i really do feel it was a sell-out in the way that it doesn't jive in Cronenberg's filmography. The movie was based on a Broadway play! It TRULY isn't a Cronenberg film the way that his previous films had the obvious Cronenberg stamp.
The only Cronenberg stamp or trademark the film has going for it is the idea itself - a man posing as a women.
Cronenberg is constantly fucking with gender and sexuality - this goes back to Crimes of the Future where a grown man is reborn into the body of a little girl. In Videodrome, Max Renn's hole in his stomach is not hallucinatory wound - it IS a hallucinatory vagina! In fact, the original script had Debbie Harry with a hallucintory dick on her stomach!
M. Butterfly is really melodramatic at times and has that typical contrived grand feel of an "epic" film due to it's setting. This is nothing like Cronenberg IMO. It's like someone else made that movie and used Cronenberg's name.
However - what the film did prove was that Cronenberg could make a different type of movie - without resorting to the trademarks of his previous films. But i felt he already did that with THE DEAD ZONE which still managed to feel 100% like a Cronenberg film - and i think The Dead Zone is great movie, maybe one of his best.