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This story is set in 1930, at the time when French colonial rule in Indochina is ending. An unmarried French woman who works in the rubber fields, raises a Vietnamese princess as if she was her own daughter. She, and her daughter both fall in love with a young French navy officer, which will change both their lives significantly. Written by
Third time to watch it, I still cried for 15 minutes
OK let's get it out of the way up front, Eliane IS France, Camille IS Vietnam the story is their story. Of course it is told from the French viewpoint, France is telling the story about her child growing up. It is a sad story, the French lost. It was not a happy story for the Vietnamese they had to fight for 2 more years to be reunited and struggle for 15 more to start to come out of the whole process. That said this is one of the most beautiful movies ever made, period.
The intricate ballet of personal dealings and politics is carried out so well that one can easily get lost in the levels, just as one can get lost in the intricate dance that is life in Asia. What you see is what you see, it may be more or less depending.
I do not believe that the movie defends France not does it condemn her. That part of the story is wisely left alone, what remains is a human drama of the folly of resisting the inevitability of change. As the film unfolds the sheer weight of history comes down on all involved.
It is that weight that brings the tears. From the time that Jean-Baptiste is brought to Saigon to the closing credits, there is no escape for anyone. The old order is out the new is awaiting its time of entry upon the stage. It is a time for tears, a time to mourn and ultimately a time to heal.
Americans in particular have a funny sense of history. We forget that others have been down the same roads before us. France's relationship with vietnam was most likely more of a force in the history of its people than ours with all of our napalm will ever be, because the French left a legacy of life that could be seen even in the senslessness of the American presence.
This movie captures that relationship and transcends it. Masterpiece is the lest one can say about such a work.
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