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I am a little amazed that, so far, only 40 comments have been entered.
Fortunately most are of high quality, and all the important points
related to the film are clearly highlighted. So, I will not repeat what
has been well said by others. I want to explain one additional point,
it has to do with my personal experience but might be interesting to
I'm a professional expatriate, living overseas for 25 years. I'm not talking about an American in Paris or an Englishman in New York, I mean African steppes, tropical jungles, Indian slums. Living in a totally foreign country, in a totally strange culture, imperfectly understanding the local language, bewildered by alien logic, you experience a permanent sense of unease. You adapt, you learn to cope, you make what you hope are friends. But you never forget that you are a stranger in unknown territory, and that you are vulnerable.
You may peacefully walk on the street one minute, the next minute bullets are flying all around you. In the evening you have a pleasant drink with your neighbour, in the morning you are arrested, accused of being a foreign mercenary. When you travel inland you come at a road block, not knowing if they'll let you pass, or harass you for a couple of hours, or confiscate your car. As a foreigner in developing countries, you are constantly confronted with uncertainty, an intangible menace lurking around the corner.
I find that TYOLD transmits this sense of menace very poignantly. Many people have commented on its brilliant sense of place, the accurate depiction of Indonesia and the events that took place at the time. Others mention that you get a very real feeling of the tension and uncertainty journalists in times of upheaval are subjected to. But I would like to extend it beyond journalists. The sense of menace in TYOLD is eminently recognizable by all who have lived in countries where the police is not there to protect you, the laws are not there to make society more civilized, the hospitals are not there to cure you. In TYOLD, the menace is made visible because of the troubles that erupt, but usually you do not have to live through civil war when overseas. Still, the menace is not less real, and the sense of foreboding haunting every expatriate was very convincingly conveyed in the film.
I watched TYLD after a prof recommended it in grad school. I had to rent
from an obscure-movies rental place in Alexandria, Virginia and I now own
There are three elements, mixed together, that make TYLD superb, rich cinema. First, it captures the feel of westerners living abroad, the cluster of expat personalities that you find were you to live or work abroad.
Second, it is one of the best love stories ever crafted, with a "fleeting end of summer feel" between Mel Gibson and Sigourney Weaver. They are both young; Weaver is stunningly gorgeous. Their romance ends almost as abruptly as it begins. We've all been there.
The movie also captures an awesome historical moment and is fascinating Cold War history. The movie is flawless.
15 years after its release, I finally get to see what to my knowledge is the
only english-speaking film that tells the story of Indonesia circa the 1965
A very young Gibson is convincing as the inexperienced but ambitious reported determined to make his mark in telling the story of Sukarno's last moments in power. Equally brilliant is Sigourney Weaver, and yet one feels that this film did not give her the opportunity to show her true calibre.
The one who ultimately steals the show, then, is Linda Hunt, playing the enigmatic and passionate Billy, who understands the true psyche of Indonesia better than any of the other foreign characters in this story.
When Billy solemnly expresses his disappointment to Guy, proclaiming, "I created you", it evoked images of Weir's latest masterpiece, The Truman Show, where Christof has fashioned the persona of Truman Burbank for his TV spectacle. Perhaps a running theme in Peter Weir's work? Must check out...
I marvelled at the authenticity of the setting. It certainly looked like Jakarta. The faces, the atmosphere, the buildings, and yet, those scenes were shot in the Philippines, with mainly Filipino actors! Just goes to show the similarity among Indonesia and the Philippines.
I see now why this film was never made available in Indonesia (to my knowledge). The last few moments of the film show the stark reality of communist executions by Soeharto's new military regime, horrifying pictures of mere pawns being slaughtered... and the parting message from a self-confessed PKI member:"Am I stupid for wanting to change my country's condition?" is one of the best lines in this film.
The film is wonderfully sensate, alive and filled with exotic beauty
and deep passions.
The colors, textures and sound have a dimensionality that draws the viewer right into the scene, the place the time... when it rains, the viewer can feel the rain, when the hero, Guy is being drowned in a dream, the viewer senses the suffocation...
The chemistry between Mel Gibson and Sigourney Weaver, as young lovers in exciting times, is breath-taking!
But Linda Hunt is the biggest gem in the movie, playing a little man named Billy Kwan. She is incredibly credible in this role. Few female actresses can believably pull-off playing a male character, but Hunt did it so well that, at first, the viewer feels a familiarity with the person playing Billy without realizing he is being played by a woman. When I realized it, I was totally amazed. Hunt is a great actress well-deserving of the Oscar she won for the portrayal.
The film is evocative and enthralling. And so alive, so utterly alive!
_The Year of Living Dangerously_ has and is everything a film should be.
In "The Year of Living Dangerously" director Peter Weir attempts much and
accomplishes most of his goals. It's a socio-political essay on the dangers
of Western meddling in Third World countries. It's a fascinating view into
the challenges of journalism in a volatile foreign country. It's a steamy
romance involving two beautiful, intelligent characters. It's a distinctly
Far Eastern morality play that seems to delight in yin/yang paradoxes. Plus
it's one of the best films at evoking the mood, texture, and sensuality of
life in Southeast Asia. Don't be too harsh on Weir for the lapses in
historic accuracy and plotting, because it's a complicated, busy landscape
he is painting here. The best things about the film are:
-Linda Hunt's amazing performance. Unlike other gender-bending performances (Julie Andrews in "Victor/Victoria", Dustin Hoffman in "Tootsie") you never once give any thought to the fact that this is a woman playing a man. It's a seamless transition and a performance of immense heart and honesty. The image of a distraught Billy pounding at his typewriter, pleading "What then must we do?" while an aria swells around him and the eyes of Jakarta's poor stare at him from his own photographs, is an incredibly moving scene.
-The atmosphere created by the combination of Russell Boyd's cinematography and Maurice Jarre's score. Take a look at the scene with Weaver walking through the streets of Jakarta in a tropical downpour. The effect is breathtaking.
-The chemistry between Gibson and Weaver. You can feel the heat between them. Unlike other posters here, I believe their romance is one of the film's strong points.
I agree that the ending is a bit of a letdown, but it doesn't diminish Weir's accomplishments. "The Year of Living Dangerously" is a startling unique film, and certainly one his best.
Peter Weir's movie, set in Sukarno's Indonesia in 1965, can be seen as four
films in one. The first is socio-political, focusing on the plight of the
impoverished Indonesian people, the impending insurrection by the communist
movement, and the bloody, chaotic aftermath of the coup. The second,
coloured in Graham Greene-ish tones, has a cast of western journalists and
diplomats failing to make sense of what's happening around them, and falling
back on sex, drink and cynicism. The third - and most important in
commercial-cinema terms - is a convincingly acted romance between rookie
foreign correspondent Guy Hamilton (Mel Gibson) and British diplomat Jill
Bryant (Sigourney Weaver), culminating in an unlikely and sentimental ending
to the film.
But it is the fourth of these "sub-movies" which is the most intriguing; this concerns the diminutive and enigmatic Australian/Chinese photographer Billy Kwan, an astonishing - and Oscar winning - portrayal by actress Linda Hunt. Billy sees himself as a puppet-master, pulling the strings of friends and colleagues, particularly of Jill and Guy, whom he throws together. But his need to take control also motivates him to help local people, not through indirect and political means, but directly like an early Christian, and this apparently benign course leads to tragedy. Billy is the true heart and conscience of this film.
Weir is not entirely successful in weaving these strands together, and leaves a few gaps in both plot and characterisation. He is also occasionally guilty of melodrama (a fault which, in the movie, Jill warns Guy about), especially in the film's closing scenes - though certainly not where he shows communist sympathisers being shot, which is factual. On the whole, however, the movie works on both commercial and artistic levels, and should be seen.
I just caught TYOLD again on PBS, not having seen it for perhaps ten years.
Wonder of wonders, compared to many other films of the early '80s, this one
is just as riveting as it was when I first saw it and doesn't look like it
has aged a minute. In addition I am picking up many nuances of the film
that I had never seen before.
What I know, and knew, about the tribulations of Indonesia in the 1960's is contained in the reels of this film. The subject matter is so far outside of the typical Western/American perspective that it is amazing that the film got made. Gibson is very good as Guy Hamilton, and his performance is much more lean and energetic than what he has done since - he hadn't had years of Hollywood gloss and Lethal Weapon familiarity to file down his performances into the predictable boxes they have become. Sigourney Weaver is elegant, although her English accent is never really convincing and sometimes disappears altogether. Linda Hunt's portrayal of Billy Kwan is astonishing and won her a well-deserved Oscar in an incredible gender-switching performance that was inspired casting.
One thing I never noticed before was how Billy placed each of the three main characters in their perspective as the Indonesian puppets he explains to Guy. Arjuna, the hero who can be fickle and selfish (Guy). The princess he will fall in love with (Weaver's character). And the dwarf, who carries the wisdom for Arjuna (Billy Kwan).
I haven't much more to say about this film aside from how much I admire it and recommend it to anyone who hasn't seen it. Beautifully shot, well paced, with good performances and about an interesting and important subject matter, it is well worth your time.
How anyone could have seen this movie and not recognized the depth of its social commentary and personal integrity is beyond me. This movie is written with power and intelligence, is performed impeccably and directed with cinematic genius. If you have not seen this movie, take time out to be touched in your head and heart.
This excellent movie is set in 1965 Indonesia, when an Australian
reporter named Gay Hamilton is assigned on his first work as a foreign
journalist. His apparently simple mission to Yakarta soon turns hot
when he interviews a rebel leader , while President Sukarno was
toppling by pressure left from communists and right from military. Guy
soon is the hottest reporter with the help of his photographer, a
native, half- Chinese midget named Kwan . Eventually Hamilton must
confront moral conflicts and the relationship between Billy and him
reaches some problems connected with a British diplomatic attaché , at
the same time the political upheaval takes place in coup détat.
Mel Gibson is good as correspondent covering a conflict and finding himself becoming personally involved when he befriends a free-lance photographer named Billy Kwan and falling for a beautiful Embassy assistant, a mesmerizing Sigourney Weaver .The movie has its touching moments found primarily in the superb supporting performances as Michael Murphy as lively journalist , Bill Kerr as veteran Colonel and of course diminutive Linda Hunt who steals the show as sensible photographer in her Academy Award-winning character, a woman acting a man, and well deservedly prized. Moving and intimate musical score though composed by synthesizer by Maurice Jarre. Atmospheric cinematography that adequate as a mood-piece by Russell Boyd.
The motion picture is stunningly directed by Australian director Peter Weir who achieved several hits (Witness, Gallipoli, The last wave) and some flop (Mosquito coast, The plumber). The movie belongs to sub-genre that abounded in the 80s about reporters around the world covering dangerous political conflicts , such as Nicaragua in ¨Under fire¨ by Robert Spottswoode with Nick Nolte , Gene Hackman and Joanna Cassidy, Salvador in ¨Salvador¨ by Oliver Stone with James Woods and James Belushi, and Libano in ¨Deadline¨ by Nathaliel Gutman with Christopher Walken and Hywel Bennett. These movies are very much in the vein of ¨The year of living dangerously ¨.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Banned in Indonesia for nearly 20 years after its release, Peter Weir's 1983 political melodrama THE YEAR OF LIVING DANGEROUSLY (TYLD) remains the only film in existence set during the failed Communist revolution of 1965 which swept corrupt dictator Sukarno out of office only to replace him with the equally corrupt Suharto. The plot revolves around the coming-of-age of neophyte journalist Guy Hamilton (played by Mel Gibson before Hollywood stardom ruined his looks and bloated his ego to titanic proportions), recently arrived in Djakarta from Australia and looking to break big stories and make a name for himself - fast. Guy is befriended by ace photographer Billy Kwan (more on "him" later), a half-Chinese, half-Indonesian dwarf who has connections in very high places and believes in President Sukarno's benevolence. The political situation in the country is tense - mass protests block traffic in the streets while a Communist revolution brews behind the scenes and Sukarno's position grows more anxious by the day. Naive and self-centered, Guy sees his new world entirely through selfish eyes - as though all Indonesia existed only for his personal entertainment and enrichment. Guy is far from alone in this regard, as the racist and sexually-exploitative behavior of his fellow-journalists demonstrates (a scene in which one of Guy's colleagues takes his pick from literally a score of desperate girls all too eager to sell themselves for a few dollars is horrific). Despite the post-WW II setting, European colonialism in Asia seems alive and well, with Western diplomats and expatriates living lives of material abundance far removed from the miserable reality of Asia's slums. Thanks to Billy Kwan's connections and friendship, Guy not only gains access to leading political players - making his name via an exclusive interview with the head of the Indonesian Communist Party - but meets the beautiful Jill Bryant (played nicely by Sigourney Weaver, whose acting is better than her accent). Jill is an assistant at the British Embassy and as such, is privy to a great deal of classified information. The pair seem to be wildly in love, but is Jill more important to Guy than his career? Before the story ends, Guy Hamilton will see blood spilled, lose his best friend, learn that Asian politics isn't a spectator sport, and that his white skin is no guarantee of safety and security. Truthfully, TYLD is something of a misfire as a political thriller - somehow, the plot doesn't quite cohere, the period setting is less than convincing, and indeed, the political aspects of the piece ultimately take a backseat to what starts to become the real story of the film - Guy's loss of arrogance and innocence, the development of his relationship with Jill, and the self-destruction of Billy Kwan. Taken as a romance and as a character study, TYLD succeeds beyond its wildest expectations. Weir - always a master of that intangible yet essential quality called "atmosphere" - creates here what has to be one of the most sensuous films of all time. The heat of the equatorial air is palpable, the crowded slums visceral. As many other reviewers have noted, the chemistry between Mel Gibson and Sigourney Weaver in this film is breathtaking - the sequence where they get caught in a sudden downpour, take shelter in a car, and ALMOST kiss is to this reviewer one of the most erotic scenes in all cinema - and perhaps rarely have two attractive humans been photographed so superbly as they are here - so much so that one can overlook Miss Weaver's tenuous English accent, which comes and goes at intervals before finally vanishing altogether. Linda Hunt's Oscar-winning gender-crossing portrayal of the brilliant but doomed Billy Kwan is superlative - what, indeed, is to be done about such mass poverty and suffering? The Vangelis soundtrack is also brilliant - lush waves of synthesized chords wash over the viewer, making the perfect aural counterpart to the film's rich photography. The ending - in which Guy has to make a choice between his ego and his lover - is gripping and suspenseful. The film's slow, even languid, pace only adds to the hothouse and strangely self-contained atmosphere. This movie isn't just something you watch - it is a remarkable sensual experience all by itself and a reminder of the power and beauty that the screen can bring to the human face. This reviewer has loved this great film ever since watching it repeatedly on cable TV as a child in the 80s - there is nothing quite like this movie's atmosphere anywhere else. Don't miss this sexy and though-provoking work of art!
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