The Lover (1992) Poster


User Reviews

Review this title
92 Reviews
Sort by:
Filter by Rating:
A Sensual Movie With A Difference
Dark Eye5 February 2000
It's not often I get to see a movie like this. The story of L'Amant potrays a most complex and provocative relationship between a young French girl (Jane March) and a Chinaman (Tony Leung). The two lovers' attraction towards each other are purely physical, but there are a lot of psychological burdens and suffering that they can't break free from, since the two of them are psychologically washed-up people who lives within the shackles of society that they live in. At times they treat each other cruelly while at times they treat each other with tender affection, yet we don't know whether they feel true love for each other or not. That's where the story gets very interesting and different.

The sex scenes are indeed graphic, but by no means done in bad taste or just for the sake of sex. The film is much more than about lust, it is about two lovers who found refuge in each other's arms. Jane March and Tony Leung gave great performances, showing the subtleties of conflicting emotions that they had to endure. Beautifully paced storyline with great atmosphere and soundtrack will make this a worthwhile movie experience. Very highly recommended.
67 out of 71 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
One of the greatest films about sexual awakening
Antonius-52 June 2000
Based on the semi-autobiographical novel of Marguerite Duras, who was born in French colonial Vietnam, this film chronicles the sexual awakening of a young French girl who falls passionately in love with a Chinese scion of a rich trading family who have his marriage already arranged. They make love passionately in a way which more truthful than is usual on the screen. This film is intensely visual, written by a major French script writer, Gerard Brach, and narrated by the powerful world weary voice of Jeanne Moreau. If you have experienced consuming sexual passion and the pain which it can engender, you will understand this film. If you haven't, this film will give you that vicarious experience. It is all the more truthful because although the relationship is interracial, the passion transcends, whereas the cultural differences block the fulfilment of their true love. It is about how people miss love trapped by convention and common sense. This is a flawless film, beautifully shot--a minor classic, much under-appreciated.
36 out of 39 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
An exciting journey along a winding river of passion...
Nazi_Fighter_David2 July 2003
Warning: Spoilers
Jean-Jacques Annaud's film version of Marguerite Duras, one of France's most esteemed writers, is quite erotic... told from the perspective of a 15-and-a-half-year-old French girl, who learns very early about passion, love and heartbreak...

It's the crossing of the river... The crossing, on a ferry, of one of the branches of the Mekong, in the great plains of mud and rice of southern Indochina...

A pretty young girl goes back to Saigon... She is standing on the deck, extremely defiant, wearing a silk dress, a pair of 'cabaret' high heels, and a man's hat... She is approached by an elegant dark man from Cholon who is also crossing the Mekong that day towards Saigon... 'I like your hat. It's original. A man's hat on a young girl,' he expresses, and continues: 'If you want I can drive you to Saigon.'

The rich Chinese playboy with a black Rolls-Royce is 32 years old, from that financial minority that owns all the popular housing of the colony... He's back from Paris where he undertook some business studies...

The film, beautifully shot, is a dreamy fantasy of escape through sex... The escape is that of the poor French teenager from the horror of her house in Sa-Dec... While the girl merely abides her innocent mother, she loves her younger brother poetically, without reserve... Her brother is handsome but not bright, romantic but terribly fragile... She fears her elder brother, a brutal and lawless dissolute man, stupidly dependent on his mother... The inexperienced girl wants to see him in pain...

The most remarkable aspect of the story is the strength of character of the young girl who is always a little sad... She finds the strength to proceed against the forbidden with a calm determination... "I've never followed anyone into a room yet.," she exclaims...

The room was dark, shipwrecked, surrounded by the never-ending clamor of the town, carried away by the flow of the town... Her body was in that public noise... Their love was erotic, immediate, unrestrained... It was physical, violent, devastating...

But the girl loves other young woman in the boarding house, the 17-year-old Helen... Her passion for Helene is intense... Helen is immodest... She don't realize she walks naked in the dormitory... She doesn't know that she's very beautiful... She's innocent lingering on in youth...

'The Lover' parallels the life of Duras herself... The setting, in Indochina, is one she knows intimately... The story is set mostly in the early 1920s following the decline of French domination of the territory that is now Vietnam... The film is the most exciting journey along a winding river of passion, which ultimately flows to the sea...

Jean-Jacques Annaud handles the story with real sensuality, romance and dramatic power... He shots much of the film with a distinguished style...

Jane March is attractive, but not obviously beautiful... Her impressionable teenager's gradual understanding of sexuality is well presented... She was subjected to a close, penetrating gaze by Annaud's camera..

Tony Leung, as the rich Chinaman, is the lusty son unable to escape his family's commands...

Although unseen, Jeanne Moreau jaded voice narrates the action and imparts a special flavor... Her words are poetry, as any Duras reader knows...
55 out of 63 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Meaning behind the scenes
HellBoy1327 July 2004
I first saw this movie when I was younger, as one of the most graphic "mainstream" movies available. That was before I ever knew what the word "soft-core" meant.

I watched it again, when I was older, and I finally understand it. The quiet sequences and unemotional facade of the female lead are no longer just boring filler between the exciting love scenes. Perhaps it's because I needed a little more life experience to know the unexpressed feelings of the female character and the expressed feelings of the male character. Sure, this movie is about taboo and tasting forbidden fruit. This movie is about sex. But this movie also has very strong depictions of the other emotions involved in the affair. Shame. Guilt. Racial and social prejudice. Love which is explored when both parties know there can be no future. Emotional detachment born out of necessity, as a "defense mechanism". Being ostracized by your peers, and life in an environment rife with vicious rumors. But mostly the shame and guilt. It's made clearer to me what a former lover of mine may have felt.

To live through all that and then to watch this movie makes for a very personal, moving experience. I can't recommend it to everyone, since every movie experience is unique. But I can say that "The Lover" is much, much more than just an excuse for graphic love scenes. It's a story of a reminiscence... a first time... a shameful secret... a hidden love, fostered through hardship and burning into the mind of the narrator an indelible, permanent mark of memory of a first, life-shaping lover...
89 out of 105 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Poetic exploration of female sexuality
deserthordes27 January 2004
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.
68 out of 80 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
sex blinds you and you do not see the film
suceveanu_eugen25 January 2003
L'Amant is a very beautiful, haunting and sensual film. The characters are perfect and acted in a minimalist way that's refreshing.

I see here that the main objections to this film are: 1 .. Not enough character development 2 .. The film does not have a clear direction to where it's going 3 .. Too slow 4 .. Too much sex (for some people if a film has explicit sex it can't be good)

All these objections are pointless:

1 .. The characters here are ordinary people, not that interesting by themselves. It's the love story that's interesting. Both of them know they have no future and try to pretend it's not love. I am sick of films in which the characters are sure they love each other after 30 minutes of "character development".

2 .. The fact that this film does not follow a clear path it's one of it's qualities. It adds more drama and the characters themselves are confused and don't know where they're going. The whole film plays like a dream of love and to request "clear direction" it's pointless.

3 .. Ahh! The "too slow" argument. There are films in this world that make you think about you, your life and the world that's around you. Surely you need some TIME to reflect on that. Short attention-span is a bad thing :).

4 .. This film is about love. The fact that they are shown having sex makes them real persons, with real bodies not some film characters. Sex is an escape from the world around them and I don't think it's too much, too explicit or some nonsense like that. It's so hard to have a film with sex it it that's not trivial! This is a masterpiece by this fact alone.

The persons who "though up" these arguments took the main strengths of the film and complained about them. This for me it's proof enough that they didn't understand this film or that the film didn't struck a single chord in their soul. Short attention span is the main plague of films now and the lack of it is the reason the french make such great films! Please try to see it again and not in a hurry. It's not light cinema! It's great cinema!
137 out of 168 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
A masterpiece
Lucía Schaffer7 February 2005
I have seen this movie in 1992. I was quite young, in fact I was 16 and when I heard about it something inside me make a noise. It seemed to be an amazing story, a girl of my age having a lover... I said Wow. And one afternoon I left my English class and I went to the movies. It was quite a desert. It was amazing, wonderful, marvelous, a gem. This story is well written and incredibly well performed with this exquisite Tomy Leung, an unknown actor to me at those times. The scene of the car, when Tomy Leung's finger barely touching Jane March's and the contrast with the one they are arriving to the Bording School with the grip of those hands. And her breath showing her arouse.

The love of those people who cannot break the rules of the world they were living, the prejudices, the society but that at least they could enjoy a period of exquisite love, tenderness, passion, experiences that one person could never forget. For me it is unforgettable, I have seen this movie nearly 20 times and I have recommended all of those I think they deserve a piece of joy.
41 out of 47 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
prometheus18163 August 2001
The Lover is not just a movie, it is sensual, breathtaking and intimate sometimes bordering on voyeurism. From the outset the scenery directs the action taking the viewer into a world of a young girl and a Chinese man that embark on a doomed love affair in 1929 Colonial Vietnam. Jane March plays the young 15 year old 'girl'. That is all we know of her as she stands on the front of a ferry cruising the Mekong Dekta. She dressed in a cheap short sleeved dress, straw hat and high heels and heavily rouged lips that belie her age. She is on her way back to a girls' school in Saigon when she is first 'seen'. The second time she is summoned to a black sedan where she meets The Chinaman, smouldering Tony Leung, sitting in the back seat of the car attired elegantly in a tailored white suit. He offers her a ride to her school where a simple, impulsive kiss on the window leads to a frustrating passionate love story laced with cultural misunderstandings. This movie is fueled right from the start with sexual tension. March and Leung are perfect as the two nameless leads who are taken on this journey of first discovery, through latent but palpable lust, then finally to ruin. She cannot love him and he cannot commit without betraying his family's honour and heritage. She will be nothing but his lover, never his wife. I felt a deep sadness for these people, their isolation evident as they silently scream for their individuality in a world that will not accept either of them together, or apart. Jean-Jacques Annaud has done for The Lover what he did for The Bear and The Name of the Rose, gave us characters that are haunting and memorable. The cinematography here is sparse, pale so as to give the story a poignant futility. Gabriel Yared's score is sensual almost brutally so as these characters' bodies come together while their souls never connect. This movie is not for the faint of heart. It IS sexual. The scenes border on artful pornography. Annaud never quite goes that far as to allow it to delve into hard-core, but the scenes are hard to watch. They are so intimate that we believe the leads are making love before our eyes...but we are compelled to watch, transfixed by the intimacy. Throughout we are reminded of the toll the affair has had on the young girl with the tremulous grosgrain narration of the always excellent Jeanne Moreau. She underscores the events and emotions of the sometimes perversely detached lead character. The Lover is based partly on the life of Marguerite Duras of whom March's young girl is almost a dead-ringer. Annaud imbues this story with every emotional nuance forcing us to use its characters as a mirror of our own hidden desires. This is a movie that made me long for what is hidden deep within my secret heart...and a little afraid of what I might find there.
30 out of 34 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Wonderfully evocative, refreshingly original, intriguing cinematography.
nz man13 February 1999
My wife and I were enraptured and thoroughly enjoyed this gem. Deeply evocative and so real that we nearly felt the rain and hot humidity, we were swept along on this unique journey. The external and newsgroup reviews did not ring true for us. Well OK, the characters were very sad and March delivered stilted lines at times, but there was so much magic to see and hear! She sizzled. He struggled. They both yearned for what could not be.

Those harbour and river scenes were no Hollywood set or computer graphics, but just had to be the real thing: Vietnam! The reviews said 'not erotic' and 'like Penthouse'...?!? Just look beneath the surface: even though both characters are trapped in cultural barriers and subsequently repress so many emotions (especially the girl), they escape into the blissfully unreal world of the rented room where emotions run deep albeit confused.

You will not find the usual American 'formula film' composed of glitz, action, intrigue, syrupy sweetness and a predictable ending. Instead here is a film that is complex yet simple, both beautiful and ugly, about separateness and unions, and the sufferings of those who love but cannot love. We were captivated, enchanted. If you are prudish or do not like 'foreign films', then avoid this film. However, if you have ever travelled in Asia, if you love creative cinematography, if you enjoy small subtleties, if you like an insight into the past and a time of strong desires... then see this film! It was refreshing, and we did not want it to end.
45 out of 53 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
L'amant simmers in artistic sensuality
amboyd19 February 2002
I bought this video before I ever viewed the film on recommendation from a friend. I have watched it over and over. It is fantastic, bringing nerve endings onto the surface! Visually stunning. Sensual to the point it takes one's breath away. Every time I re-watch this film, I find yet something else to savor. Now if I can only find the novel to read! Tony Leung is well-bred simmering sexuality. Jane March is hot/cold perfect as his lover!
20 out of 24 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
One Image
tedg2 June 2004
I continue to be amazed at what works in this huge experiment in the social imagination we call film.

One thing that really impresses me is how one image will stick in your mind. One image around which it seems the whole rest of the project revolves and supports. I usually write IMDb comments very soon after seeing or reseeing a film.

In this case, I was so struck by that one image I resolved to wait three months before commenting. It stuck.

That image is the one which is used in the promotion and presumably is what the filmmaker considers its essence: the 15 year old girl in defiantly non-school clothes with an incongruous man's hat on the ferry. She is observing and consciously observed. It is we who observe her and enjoy her sensuality then and later just as the Chinese observer does. He is our surrogate, defining the strange situation of a being in the wrong place: Chinese being then more of a 'minority' in Vietnam than Europeans.

Exotic ordinariness. Emerging awarenesses as justification for being. No, more: revelling in existence. Transition as destination.

It is odd how charged this one image is, and how competently it justifies the whole project. Just as the lover is left puzzling why, so are we. So are we, and the fact that no easy answer appears is why this sticks so.

Ted's Evaluation -- 3 of 3: Worth watching.
46 out of 61 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
the best love story on my list
wilsonso-131 December 2005
I have seen this film when it first opened in 1992. I bought the film when it became available. Sometimes when we think a film is the best movie ever made, it might change over the years. Not in this case, 14 years later, The Lover still stays on number 1 spot on my list. The voice of the narrator and the music has an lasting effect on me. The sex scenes were very natural, and not 'dirty'.

The were many similar love stories that come along, (for example -The Notebook, Harry & June) but non of them can be compared to The Lover. You can feel the passion between the two characters. If you don't believe me, see it for yourself, it will change your view on love! Btw, number 2 on my list is A Very Long Engagement! Number 3 spot is a tie between "Amelie" and "In The Mood For Love".
12 out of 15 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Beautifully and elegantly erotic!
jodilyn20 December 2005
Warning: Spoilers
I found this movie while searching through a movie bin for Christmas presents. It is a must have for your DVD collection but be aware there are very explicit scenes throughout the whole movie. It is not for the faint of heart! Amant, L' borders on almost pornographic eroticism. Some could say it is too explicit, however, these scenes are necessary to show what passions can be awakened and how confusion can come from such an awakening! The scenes between the girl and her Chinese lover are beautifully filmed, and the accompanying music triggers a dream like quality. The scene where he washes her after their first time together is sensuously tender! The sadness of this movie is how they can't understand or fuse their passions with their hearts. He cannot hope to be with her..he is tied to the social customs of the time. She cannot hope to be with him..she is also bound by social customs but also in not being able to give her heart to him and these elements transfer over to their affair..They are tender at times but cruel at others. It is the yin and yang of passion...the pleasure and the pain! In the end, they learn the tragic truth of it..the Yin and Yang of love and passion..the pleasure and the pain. Can you give sexual love without involving the heart and soul? It seems to not be an easy question to answer! Excellent movie!
11 out of 14 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Passionate and Sensuous
moviemaniac-914 June 2003
Oohoowow, this is one of the best love story i have the priviledge to watch and one of the best movie ever produced.

It is erotic, passionate, sensuous, sensitive, stunning, zesty, reflective, cinematographic, haunting and a very tragic love story.

The movie is based on the semi-autobiography of one of the most famous French author, Marguerite Duras who passed away in 1996.

I certainly disagree with several critics who did not hesitate to label the motion picture as "nothing more than a soft-porn." This is pretty obvious to me that the critics are unaware of or have ignored the story behind the story and the message the author and the film director are trying to convey.

Just because this movie contains scenes that are erotic with nudity, and passionate, it does not mean that the film is pornographic. Critics need to be aware of this fallacy. Moreover, critics have ignored the historical background of life in French-ruled Vietnam and the general French attitude towards the Vietnamese and the Chinese in the 1920s and 1930s.

To paraphrase another fan of this movie, who reasoned that, if this film is a porn, it would not has been nominated for an Oscar and won an award from the mainstream French Cinema. I would add: it would be totally ignored by


One of my favourite erotic scenes in the movie was when the girl gradually and teasingly, pursed her lips on the glass window of the limousine for her lover.

Another favourite of mine is: the scene in the limo, showing Jane and Tony slowly and hesitatingly held hands together without looking at each other.

The camera works that captured these two moments were extremely well done. These two scenes were so erotic, my heart nearly skips a beat. To do justice to this movie, one really needs to watch it, to believe what I have just described here.

The Story: This is a movie about a teenage girl who was physically and emotionally abused by her mother and elder brother. She felt unable to control her predicament.

She sought solace and control through her passionate affair with a wealthy Chinese man (actor Tony Leung) from Cholon.

The affair is tragic from the beginning because of the cross-cultural conflict experienced by the two lovebirds.

On one hand, there was the French social restrictions about relationships with the "inferior" race of Vietnamese and the Chinese. On the other hand, it was about the Chinese tradition of arranged marriages.

The question is: Did she eventually love him?

Here are the words of Duras: "Among all the other nights upon nights, the girl had spent that one on the boat....when it happened, the burst of Chopin.... There wasn't a breath of wind and the music spread all over the dark boat, like a heavenly injunction whose import was unknown, like an order from God whose meaning was inscrutable. And the girl started up as if to go and kill herself in her turn, throw herself in her turn into the sea, and afterwards, she wept because she thought of the man from Cholon and suddenly she wasn't sure she hadn't loved him with a love she hadn't seen because it had lost itself in the affair like water in (the) sand and she rediscovered it only now, through this moment of music......"

By the way, the Chopin music did played in the movie.

Review by MovieManiac1991
8 out of 10 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
An underrated film
rolandbrilla8 February 2002
Warning: Spoilers
(contains spoilers)

This is a very underappreciated and underrated film, and I do not really understand the reasons for that. The story about the initially mainly sexual relationship that - after separation - turns out to be genuine affection is touching and has some interest with the ongoing family conflict and the cultural differences between the lovers. The sex scenes are absolutely justified, in content as well as in length (I guess I saw a modified version, though), since sex is an essential part of the story. The acting is good enough - especially Jane March needs to be mentioned, she gives a credible performance of a teenage girl in love and in trouble. The development of the plot appears logical, the conflict unfolds in a credible way, and, for instance, the atmosphere during the dinner with the girl's family is palpable. The scenery of colonial Vietnam seems to be caught very well, and the cinematography and the melancholic music are excellent. One of the final scenes - the farewell, when the ship leaves the port with the girl - is very moving and unforgettable.

Overall, I think this is above average if not even great cinema. Some people apparently did not tolerate the sex scenes, but instead of saying so, they try to deny any artistic value of that movie, and without any good reasons.

It may very well be that Maguerite Duras (the author of the novel, which I did not read) did not like the movie, that she had something else in mind that this movie failed to express - but overall, this film is as good that it has its own value, independent of the novel.
8 out of 10 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
You'll love The Lover
z_williams1615 June 2006
I loved this movie, and i think its safe to say that it is the only (if not one of very few) extremely erotic movies that can be taken seriously for its plot and the sheer caliber of its film-making. This movie is a beautiful recreation of near '30's Colonial Vietnam (i don't know how accurate, but i was convinced), the "look" of the movie can be summed up with that one scene near the start where the camera pans up on the girl and shes describing her wardrobe; her cabaret shoes, dress and unique mans hat (that no other woman, Vietnamese or otherwise is wearing at the time), you get an impression of subtle defiance from her that only expands and endures as the movie courses on. The cinematography of 'living' in this movie really draws you in, be it when they're washing out the house, dancing in the restaurant or (my favorite scene) when the car overheats and the young brother gets out with a watering pail to get some water from the gutter, it just made me smile, all these scenes are elevated by the camera work and positioning of the characters. Anyways the dialogue is amazing, like when the girl says "my brother smokes too much" to which the Chinaman replies "too too much" (i just thought that was so naturally clever) or when she first makes love to the Chinaman and describes him (part of him) as "the golden novelty," this is a prime example of how this movie, unlike so many others, elevates the eroticism within it to something more than 'porn with a plot' as many other erotic movies seem to be, the focus of this movie is the story, it just happens to be erotic (not that i'm complaining), and if all that wasn't enough to get you renting (or buying) underlying and driving the plot is the brilliant and engaging retrospective narrative by an older Duras (Author of "The Lover"). This movie is a must see, it is both sensual and heartbreaking and well worth your time.
6 out of 8 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
I love this Movie
passionforlife28 February 2001
It is a beautiful love story, and the filming is so beautiful. I have watched it over and over again. It is erotic, but it is a love story.

A lost love story of two people back in the 1920's. The performance of the two main character is very good.
6 out of 8 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
A French nymphet in a man's fedora thought it wasn't love
Charles_LePoje9 April 2007
This exquisitely rendered film adaptation of Margaret Duras' international best-seller weaves a bittersweet story about the most unlikely love affair.

An extraordinary love story unfolds in Saigon, in French colonial Vietnam, in the late twenties. The two protagonists whose budding liaison we follow throughout this melancholic French film are polar opposites. Cultural prejudice, the age disparity, class difference, racial divide, dysfunctional family, a pre-arranged marriage, a young girl in a man's fedora, all stand in the way of the most of elusive of humane pursuits - love. This is a love affair par excellence, about love of a very special sort; the only kind of love that is forever etched in the lovebirds hearts - the love that leaves both lovers broken-hearted.

Veteran filmmaker Jean-Jacques Annaud (Quest For Fire, In The Name Of The Rose, The Bear) gives the stellar screen adaptation of the book - by his frequent collaborator, screen writer Gerard Brach - a de luxe treatment. He seamlessly translates the superb screen play to the silver screen in the most effective fashion; much like celebrated rendering of Mario Puzzo's 'Godfather' by another cinematic master - Francis Ford Copolla. Both directors have miraculously elevated source materials, pop culture international literary phenomenons, into cinema classics. This memorable feature is a crowning achievement in the career of an acclaimed artist with imposing international stature.

That this flawless cinematic gem has not gotten prominence it deserves on our shores, is a lamentable testament to our puritanical society and the crudeness of populist taste. Irrespectful of high cinematic achievements the two sub-genres will always encounter sharp scissors of our merciless and hypocritical moral and cultural guardians. Our censors will inevitable relish at any 'sexually explicit', controversial love story that is left of mainstream (coffee-table pornography, in our righteous film critic's parlance) and, for different reasons altogether, at a serious, probing, insightful and provocative political picture. These are exactly the two film arenas in which foreign filmmakers are in a league way above the common and the mediocre, the two American leagues tackling the respective sub-genres.

There is a seduction scene at the beginning of this luminous picture that is as sophisticated and erotic as anything written by Stendhal; right from a classical French novel. This extremely rich, masterfully shot, explosively potent scene brimming with subtle eroticism, is the meeting, in the back seat of a car, of suppressed mature desire and the sweet dread of carnal awakening of a nymphet.

There are numerous scenes of striking beauty, poetically realized, throughout the movie, but one stands out. When the young girl, her sexuality fully awakened, approaches her lover's car and purses her lips on the window.

The precise, top-notch editing serves the picture well, always adding to the story's narrative drive or allowing for a moment of contemplation. The most exciting scenes end at just the right moments, when the viewers anticipation is at its highest. They are always followed by a lingering or tracking shot of magnificent, lyrical beauty.

Seldom is a close-up as eloquent as it is in the hands of Robert Fraisse, the film's Oscar nominated cinematographer (he had a misfortune of running against Robert Redford's 'A River Runs Through It). We learn more about the character of The Young Girl from a single protracted close-up of the girl, than we learn about characters in many other movies during the whole first act. By the time his camera reaches her old cabaret shoes, slowly lingering down her pigtail, pausing on a ribbon, the essence of her innocent persona is half-revealed. The whole film is spectacularly shot; a picturesque collage of never-ending, breath-taking images, elegantly composed and framed with a finesse full of visual majesty.

The film main conflict surprisingly stems from the young girl's a priori approach to the blossoming relationship. Her determination to keep the affair strictly sexual could have come out contrived were it not for the grim circumstances of her family life that had her mature before her time. Not inherent to her age group, the determination was way ahead of her times. It would take decades for such attitude to approach mainstream with female liberation movement which emerged in the late sixties.

On the opposite end, her rich Chinese lover is bound to marry according to his father's wishes and to the tradition of arranged marriages. Born into riches, with no profession nor any discernible talents, in his own words he is nobody without his money. Seemingly a perfect set-up for a guilty-free sexual liaison gets complicated when the Chinese bon vivant falls in love with the young girl and meets the torments of unrequited love.

'The Lover' is a cinematic gem of rare color and unforgettable spark; the love story of singular beauty and distinct resonance.
7 out of 10 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Especially for lovers
curtf18 September 2000
This movie is a very touching look into someone's coming of age and discovering love. Jane March is a wonderful actress who enticed me from the start. I would highly recommend it to anyone who can love deeply and would understand what its like to be lovers.
4 out of 5 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Wonderful movie
valentin_rubtov22 March 2005
A great movie after all trying to show as clear as possible the impossible multiracial love relation in old French Indochina at that time, although a wealthy Chinese guy and a financially poor white very young girl are involved. The atmosphere of that society is very well showed with all its interdictions and decadent customs. Jane March is shining in this movie and the role is just perfect for her despite the multiple soft core scenes she was involved in. The movie is based more on the very youth of the feminine character, oh her sexual development, on the taboo customs of that time society, on the fragility and undeveloped feelings of the feminine character and on the maturity and steadiness of the masculine one. If you have the chance to watch this movie when you are at least in your 30's, you will have the chance to see more deeply inside the fragility of both characters and pay attention less on the sexual part of it. Generally it's wonderfully made and it is worth watching.
5 out of 7 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
A Hard Look at Quote Love Unquote
Last night I saw "The Lover" on video. I couldn't speak or move for a few moments after the final credits. I just sat there, half staring, half crying.

A poor French teenager from a dysfunctional family is leaning over the railing on a barge sweating through southeast Asia. A meticulously groomed Chinese man in a three piece white suit is staring at her, telegraphing that if this isn't, for him, love at first sight, it is at least his obsession for the next two hours of film time. He, gingerly, aflutter in a stereotypically feminine way, approaches. She is blase, rock hard. He offers her a ride. In the back of his chauffered limousine, they sit in opposite corners. While he is looking out the window, inch by inch, his hand moves toward hers. With contact, she looks even more bored, even more blase. By the time he gets her to her school, her head is thrown back, and his hand is in her lap.

The actress playing the teenager looks, in various shots, to be anywhere from a naive and buglike fifteen to a jaded twenty three. Since much of the rest of hte movie is devoted to full body nudity and graphic scenes of sexual intercourse, her youth, both as an actress and as a character, was an issue when the film was first released. I didn't see it for that reason. I was convinced it was exploitation of men's fantasies of making it with a child.

But the film didn't feel that way to me at all. To me, it seemed to capture really well the un self conscious power and ammoral curiosity a teenage girl experiencing her sexuality for the first time can experience. I was grateful for that. I've never seen anything else like it on film. It's so rare that a woman is allowed to f*** and not fall in love, to retain a curious, animal look even during orgasm.

The sex scenes talked to me. They communicated as much as the scant dialogue the personalites, desires, strengths, weaknesses, of the characters.

This would have been a very different movie -- a much shorter and grimmer one -- had the man, the "Lover" of the title, been anything other than what he was. He was not a rapacious, exploitative beast. He was, rather, a romantic. Confused, worshipful, easily hurt. Chinese in a time and place when being Chinese made him less than she in some way, in spite of his relative wealth and her poverty. Vulnerable, because he was so in thrall to her, and she was merely curious about him, and hungry for physical pleasure.

Many scenes in the movie spoke to me loudly about race, power, sick family systems, money, sex. I don't want to describe them for fear of spoiling this movie for anyone else. But I'll mention -- the scene where he takes her ratty family out to dinner, their disdain for his race, his effort to not reveal that he is insulted, and how he deals with his pain once he gets her alone. His wedding. Her waiting for him; his never coming. Her resonse to the pianist playing Chopin on the ocean liner.

"The Lover" -- thumbs up.
5 out of 7 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Best movie I've ever seen!
theatrenerdforever19 April 2004
I love this movie so much and I can relate to it in so many ways. I like movies that are based on true stories and this movie isn't some sappy happy go lucky crap, its about a real situation that happens in everyday life even today. I cried watching it and i had to break myself from crying over it by watching it over and over, which I didn't mind doing, because I love the movie and Tony Leung Ka-Fai (big tony) is HOT. This movie lets you know that, you can love someone so much and give them everything they want, and even if you knew in the beginning that things wouldn't work out, when reality hits, its hard to let go, especially if that person didn't love you, but just wanted to use you. I think she realized she loved him when she grew older and more mature.

I liked the innocence of the two getting to know each other in the beginning. At first, he was infatuated, and wanted to love her, then he realized she was using him and acting like a child, and decided to just use her and not get involved emotionally, then he becomes jealous with her and wants to sorta control her, because he loves her even though he's trying to fight it. It a very powerful, touching story. If only more movies like this we're being made instead of the meanlingless-made-for-teens crap nowadays. I'm trying to find an old copy of the novel the movie was based on.
5 out of 7 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
hardly worth all the heavy breathing
Michael Neumann3 December 2010
In Jean-Jacques Annaud's flaccid soft-porn melodrama a young French girl is sexually awakened by a polite but torrid affair with a Chinese gentleman in colonial Southeast Asia. The film was adapted from the autobiographical novel by Marguerite Duras, but is actually a dimwitted cousin to 'Last Tango In Paris', with all the pretensions but none of the power of Bertolucci's film (the anonymous characters are identified only as 'the girl', 'the Chinese man', and so forth). The eroticism so vital to the story is further undermined by a script that might have been improved by subtitles (but not by much), and fatally crippled by two leads with little chemistry and even less depth. There's nothing about the vague, passive schoolgirl played by Jean March to suggest she could ever write like Duras, so it's hard to connect the often exquisite voice-over narration (read by Jeanne Moreau) with the empty sentiments coming out her mouth. Desperate publicists tried to drum up prurient interest by circulating rumors that the sex was genuine, but it's a moot point: the love scenes are no more provocative than a gymnastics exhibition, minus the dexterity and grace.
8 out of 13 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Mysteries to Us; So Obvious to Them
rajah524-322 May 2009
I think I was about 23 -- freshly returned from Vietnam -- when it began to dawn on me that the culture that includes most Americans is horribly crippled.

(At our best, we seem trapped in a fog of bewilderment. At our worst, we are certain we know what is best for everyone. Yet we dine on a steady diet of "love" the French would swear was "rage.") I came back from what had become quite normal to me to the place I'd grown up, and found it anything -but- normal. That sense of disconnection only lasted for a time. I wasn't conscious enough then to recognize that the undoing of my disenchantment was simply a matter of becoming a part of that crippled culture again.

But when I see films like this, like Bertolucci's "The Last Emperor," like Wertmuller's "Swept Away," like Fontaine's "Nathalie," I know once again what it is like to know what I really -feel- about life. I know who and what I am for a bit. I am re-engaged with what matters.
6 out of 9 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
More Than Skin Deep
tintin-233 March 2008
Warning: Spoilers
There are three interconnected themes in this film: an impossible love story in the colonial environment of pre-WWII Vietnam, relationships, and the constant crossing of boundaries and borders.

I was rather disappointed while reading more than a dozen American reviews of this film penned by professional film critics. Only one reviewer seemed to be knowledgeable about the author and the position she occupies in the world's literature. These film critics concentrated somewhat obsessively on the sexual scenes, which take a total of nine minutes, or 8% of the film's duration. In my opinion, these movie reviews are the result of the genetic puritan attitude that prevails in the American society. Or maybe the reviewers were asleep during most of the film and only woke up for the "good parts?" "The Lover" has nothing to do with pornography. It depicts an intense passion, where, of course, sex plays an integral role. Annaud had no choice but to include this aspect of the story, and he did it in a meaningful and artistic way.

The Chinaman has the advantage of being older, male, and wealthy, but he is Chinese -- and she is white. He has "lived it up" in Paris, where he had many liaisons. He is an expert at lovemaking. But he is also vulnerable as an only child, orphaned by his mother, dominated by his father. The Chinaman uses love and lovemaking to shore himself up against his insecurity. He is the archetypal romantic lover, talking to her of love, death, and eternity. His love, while passion-filled and pleasurable, is also an agony and physical torment. He is not at all the dominant, forceful seducer whom she craves. However, we must be careful to remember that we see his desire for the girl only through the narrator's subjective memories.

By contrast, we know the feelings of the girl, even though time has certainly altered her memories. Right from the start, the girl refuses to use the language of love, denying the romantic concept of being his only love. The girl's desire for the Chinaman's body is firmly grounded in sensuality as well as in curiosity, but the first appeal she feels upon meeting him on the ferry is for his wealth, his luxurious car, his diamond ring. However, as she sails back to France, we learn that she comes to the realization that she may have loved him all along.

As the affair progresses, other figures creep into the sexual imaginary: the young brother, the older brother, her friend Helen, and of course, her mother. There is a mother-daughter love/hate relationship. Duras depicts her mother as an unhappy, driven woman. She admires her mother's quality of perseverance, yet Duras cannot forgive her mother for the life of poverty and degradation, nor for her mother's excessive love for her oldest son and apparent failure to love her two younger children.

And of course, Duras cannot forgive her mother's opposition to her becoming a writer. With her lovemaking, the girl experiences a triumphant sense of separation from and superiority over her mother. She is trying to eradicate the mother, to escape the stranglehold of their mutual hatred. The daughter's drive toward the lover, toward social disgrace and reputation, without understanding it herself, is to "punish" the mother.

The girls' love affair with a Chinese man is also a giant step toward her liberation from the tyranny of her elder brother. It is somewhat ironical that the older brother's gambling, drug-addiction, and social marginalization are mirrored in the way her lover spends his days gambling and smoking opium.

Finally, there is an undercurrent theme which runs throughout the film, which is that of boundaries and borders. The film opens with a ferry ride across the Mekong and ends with an ocean crossing, signaling the constant crossing of frontiers and borders: geographic of course, but also racial, cultural, and sexual. These are confronted and sometimes dissolved as the poor white girl of French parentage meets her wealthy Chinese lover in the Cholon, the ill- repute Chinese district of Saigon. She, a white girl, was raised among natives, almost as a native. He is a native who experienced the western culture and somehow longs for it.

There is also the transitory period of the girl's adolescence, between what remains of her childhood, and the onset of her womanhood. On the ferry and on the steam liner, the girl wears a child's pigtails, but she is dressed in women's clothes. The gender roles are somewhat blurred, too: she wears a woman's dress, but also a man's hat, in a color that signifies femininity. The boarding school in Saigon is home mainly to the abandoned mixed-blood daughters of local women and French fathers. The girl has an intimate friendship with Helene Lagonelle, which is ambivalent and perhaps sexually charged. The girl is unable to treat the Chinaman with even a modicum of courtesy when she is with her brothers because he is Chinese, not white. In the public bus, she rides in front, separated from the locals, yet in her private home, she lived as a native. In the cocoon of the "garconnière," she is separated from the crowd on the street by only thin cotton blinds. There is even a meta-boundary crossed, as Duras takes her memories and feelings and externalizes them in the form of her writing. What has been internal and private becomes external and public.

"The Lover" is an autobiographical love story set in a post-colonial environment. We owe the remarkable transcription of this literary masterpiece to the artistry and creativity of Jean-Jacques Annaud. In this production, he has successfully combined two art forms, the beauty of the written word with the fascination of the image. I believe that the film has been, for the most part, misunderstood in this country, and I would recommend a second, more open-minded look at it. It will be a worthwhile experience.
6 out of 9 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
An error has occured. Please try again.

See also

Awards | FAQ | User Ratings | External Reviews | Metacritic Reviews

Recently Viewed