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1 item from 1999

Film review: 'Three Seasons'

1 February 1999 | The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News | See recent The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News news »

PARK CITY, Utah -- "Three Seasons" is a luminous, delicate and powerful saga of modern-day Saigon. The winner of both the Jury Prize and the Audience Award at the Sundance Film Festival, the film moved audiences throughout the fest and should be a hit on both the festival and select-site circuit for October Films.

A narrative pastiche weaving four separate stories in present-day Vietnam, "Three Seasons" is an eloquent depiction of life in that tumultuous country. Filmmaker Tony Bui, who directed and co-wrote, has painted a provocative picture of the hard life that many Saigon residents face.

Reminiscent of Italian neo-realism, Bui focuses on those who are barely scraping by, including a cyclo driver, a prostitute, a young man who hustles trinkets on the streets and a girl who has been hired to be a personal assistant to a reclusive spiritual master.

Winding between these unconnected, but ultimately inclusive stories, Bui's storytelling is packed with hard city images. Indeed, "Three Seasons" is most eloquent and powerful in its visuals: the kaleidoscope of the scurrying chaos of big-city Saigon is both frightening and dignified.

Unfortunately, the dialogue and writing is often of an expositional nature and occasionally "Three Seasons" is over-arching in making its thematic points. During these junctures, the storytelling takes on a somewhat glossy, "National Geographic" patina.

Overall, "Three Seasons" is an exceptional film, capturing the roiling nature of a country that's torn by its past and gyrating between the old ways and the new. The acting is special as the well-chosen cast members embody their character's everyday essences.

Particularly noteworthy is Ngoc Hiep, whose radiant and fragile nature literally blossoms as she comes to gain strength and uncommon insights in her routine work with a religious master. Don Duong is also noteworthy for his engaging performance as a love-smitten cyclo driver. Harvey Keitel, who also executive produces, is solid as an American G.I. searching for the daughter he left behind during his Vietnam war days.

It's in its technical aspects that "Three Seasons" is most bountiful. Cinematographer Lisa Rinzler deservedly won the festival's Cinematography Award for her masterful lensing, eloquently and touching and conveying the heart and soul of the fractured city. In addition, composer Keith Reamer's full-bodied music, with its dissonant as well as mellifluous tones, also captures the vibrant qualities of Vietnamese life.


A Film by Tony Bui

Producers: Jason Kliot, Joana Vicente, Tony Bui

Screenwriter-director: Tony Bui

Executive producer: Harvey Keitel

Co-executive producer: Charles Rosen

Co-producer: Timothy Linh Bui

Story: Tony Bui, Timothy Linh Bui

Director of photography: Lisa Rinzler

Production designer: Wing Lee

Costume designer: Ghia Ci Fam

Editor: Keith Reamer

Music: Richard Horowitz

Vietnamese songs by: Vy Nhat Tao

Line producer: Trish Hofmann

Casting director: Quan Lelan

Sound: Curtis Choy, Brian Miksis


Hai: Don Duong

Kien An Nguyen: Ngoc Hiep

Teacher Dao: Tran Manh Cuong

James Hager: Harvey Keitel

Lan: Zoe Bui

Woody: Nguyen Huu Duco

Truck Driver: Minh Ngoc

Huy: Hoang Phat Trieu

Running time -- 113 minutes

MPAA Rating: PG-13


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