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It is French Colonial Vietnam in 1929. A young French girl from a family that is having some monetary difficulties is returning to boarding school. She is alone on public transportation when she catches the eye of a wealthy Chinese businessman. He offers her a ride into town in the back of his chauffeured sedan, and sparks fly. Can the torrid affair that ensues between them overcome the class restrictions and social mores of that time? Based on the semi-autobiographical novel by Maugerite Duras. Written by
Cal Lott <email@example.com>
Her lover smokes filtered cigarettes in 1929. They were not invented until the mid-'30s and not in common use until the 1950s. See more »
Very early in my life, it was too late. At eighteen it was already too late. At eighteen I aged. This aging was brutal. This aging, I saw it spread over my features, one by one. Instead of being frightened by it, I saw this aging of my face with the same sort of interest I might have taken for example in the reading of a book. That new face I kept it. It's kept the same contours, but its matter is destroyed. I have a destroyed face. Let me tell you again: I'm fifteen and a half. ...
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This movie is one of the very few successful attempts at evoking female sexuality and sensuality in a non-obscene way. It's an exploration of the work of the senses, not so much a story with a plot. Therefore, it is unique in the history of cinema. Whereas other movies featuring a young girl and an older lover are mostly playful, ironic or simply intent on breaking a taboo, this movie brings an ode to the senses themselves in a much more subtle way.
Difficult as this may be, Annaud brings us as close as we can get to the atmosphere of love in a colonial and exotic setting. This delicate setting with its many contradictions (race, gender, age) adds to the experience. (A young girl who explores her own sexuality, couldn't dream of a more well-suiting context). In fact, the "colony" herself is a major character in the movie; the colony with her mighty Mekong River, her smells and colors, her strange sounds and her enigmatic people.
On a more metaphoric level, the Colony represents a temporary space, a place where Western people only pass through, a space that cannot be owned forever, a place of love and hate, just like the lovers' relationship. And in the end, the lovers have to go their own way, just like the colonialists have to leave the colony they love.
The movie is poetically slow, and at times becomes an almost ritual repetition of a single act. Precisely therein lies its 'dramatic content'. Add the beautiful cinematography and you have a nice exercise in film.
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