|Index||3 reviews in total|
Judy Dench plays a secretive English lady who observes the chaos of the
final days of democratic government in Saigon. The subject matter is
uncomfortable to watch; perhaps more so today than when the film was
released, as parallels can be drawn between Vietnam and Iraq. The films
begs the question: Has the US and it's allies learned anything in 30
years about international relations.
As a film Saigon is solid more so due to the subject matter being strong than the direction and script, which are pretty bland. The story moves at a decent pace and the climax is both powerful and pathetic as bewildered and semi drunk characters are suddenly forced from apathetic complacency to action.
One of the central problems with the film is that it doesn't feel like it has a strong emotional soul. Judy's character feels too detached to her surroundings, and life in general. She's a woman of mysterious yes, but there isn't any real attempt to dig beneath her cool exterior. I also felt like I didn't get a true inside account of what actually happened in the lead up to that fateful day in 1975. I needed more information about what was happening at the time politically and socially to both the Vietnamese and the Americans in and around Saigon.
It's a story that should be re-made with better production values, but it held my interest throughout. 6/10
SAIGON:YEAR OF THE CAT is clearly one of Stephen Frear's lesser efforts, but everything this director tackles is worth a look. Danny Boyle is the only other English director who embraces such a wide variety of styles and themes for both television and movies. SAIGON:YEAR OF THE CAT reminds me of Frear's made for TV film, THE DEAL. In that film, he gave the viewer a behind the scenes peek at the often volatile political relationship between Gordon Brown and Tony Blair, two titans within the British Labour Party during the 1990's. SAIGON:YEAR OF THE CAT examines the 'Fall of Saigon' through the lens of a sexual affair between a mid-level bank executive, played by Judy Dench, and an American CIA officer, played by Frederic Forrest. We witness, not only the loss of the war, but the loss of the country due to America's haphazard and poorly implemented foreign policy. History has shown that , although America's Vietnam strategy experts 'hearts' might be in the right place, their 'heads' couldn't seem to provide a workable procedure. This dichotomy provides the ineluctable backdrop to the film. The movie is a very small production, yet all the actors give fairly convincing performances, but certainly no new ground is broken. The overall 'Look' of the film is dreadful. Most of the production is awash in orange and yellow, and clearly was not intentional. Sometimes the movie is almost painful to watch due to the hideous nature of the film quality. However, the relationship between the two principle characters, and the singular importance of this historical event, was more than enough to engage the viewer.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I like it. So much so I have my own copy and dig it out every once in a
while to watch it.
Why? Because like "Pearl Harbor" in 2000 was about the Japanese attack, it's a LOVE story not meant to be a documentary.
That having been said, it unintentionally captures 2 things I think most documentaries avoid; 1) the US ambassador flat out F-d up the last days of the Republic of South Vietnam. By scuttling every attempt to begin an evacuation of locals who'd assisted the US govt (and were therefore at great risk when the Commies got there) in the hopes of avoiding a panic like racked DaNang the week before, the US ambassador set up a situation that was all but doomed in terms of getting out all that needed to while evacuating many who didn't. 2) the air of panic that was present in Saigon during the last 24 hours of the Republic of S VN.
Don't just take my word for these things. Do research on the Fall of Saigon, the last days of the RSVN and you'll soon learn what I'm referring to on both points.
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