Indochine (1992) Poster

(1992)

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Forget the Maltin comment about tripe
sekander20 June 2000
After seeing The Scent of Green Papaya, I was not expecting much, just a vehicle for Catherine Deneuve. And while it most definitely is that, it is also so much more.

The stunning cinematography, the elegant score, and the epic love story set against the turbulent colonial times. I was quite taken with the myriad plot twists. Too bad our high schooler has a 3minute attention span.

This is a very real depiction of colonialism. One reviewer noted the maternalism of Deneuve's character while pointing out the brutality of the slave sellers. People expecting a total condemnation of colonialism or a total condemnation of communism just don't see the gray between the black and white. Unfortunately, only Europeans could have made this movie. There is no didactic viewpoint, which is why some Americans don't react well to it. While the ending is a bit flat, it still doesn't detract from the fact that this was a great movie.

One of the little pleasures of this movie is listening to the Vietnamese housemaid's pidgin French and reading the subtitled translation. While movies like The Scent of Green Papaya are wonderful and deserve all the accolades they are accorded, this movie is very underrated. Green Papaya is a nice cultural experience but it can't come close to Indochine for grit and history. 3 1/2 stars out of 4.
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8/10
Good
Blite200012 September 2004
I thought it was good, if over-long. I've been reading the comments and people saying things about Indochine's realism. From what I can understand from my family (who are all half-French, half-Vietnamese, and who left Vietnam pretty much at the time the film wraps up), the sense you get of Eliane "being in charge" of the Vietnamese, and the failure to look at things from the viewpoint of the Vietnamese themselves, but only from the French perspective, is pretty accurate.

Society was essentially segregated in Saigon / Indochina. One member of my family told me a story about how they left the French "compound" in Saigon one day with their mother and - for the first time - saw the real Vietnamese people, in tattered clothes... Cue "why are they in rags, mummy?" "because that's the way most people live."

So, as I see it at least, I wouldn't criticise this film for the sense you get of the French being oblivious to the reality of their existence in Indochina. That's the way it was. That's the way most colonies were, in fact (think Shanghai). And I think that's the masterstroke of this film: that people lived their lives without ever thinking about the broader impact of what was going on, until everything just fell to pieces around their ears.
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9/10
Foreshadows the American failure in Vietnam
DeeNine-28 April 2004
There is some difference of opinion about whether this is a good film or not. Some have called it a "soap opera" beautifully filmed. (Both Leonard Maltin in his Movie and Video Guide and the good people at Video Hound used that designation.) But I don't think that is correct at all. Beautifully filmed yes, stunning at times like something from David Lean; and in fact this film has more in common with the Hollywood panoramic epic than it does with the tradition of the French cinema. But it is certainly not a soap opera. In a soap opera the important element is a narrow focus on things material, social, and sexual played out in a banal, cliché-ridden and bourgeois manner. In Indochine the focus is on political change and why it came about.

The story begins in Vietnam in 1930 and concludes on the eve of the communist revolution in 1954--presaging the tragic American involvement a decade later. Catherine Deneuve plays Eliane Devries, the strong-willed owner of a rubber plantation in Vietnam, then part of the French colonial empire. Having no children of her own (or a husband) she raises the Vietnamese girl Camille (Linh Dan Pham) as her own. She conducts secret affairs (and even visits opium dens) while maintaining the appearance of respectability. We are shown the decadence of the French living in Vietnam and the exploitive evils of colonialism, hardy the stuff of soap opera. We are made aware of the social unrest stirring amongst the population and even shown what amounts to a slave auction conducted by the colonial powers with the aid of the French military, in particular, the French navy.

Enter Jean-Baptiste (Vincent Perez), a handsome French naval officer who, despite the difference in their ages, initiates an affair with Eliane. She is at first put off, then reluctant, and then madly in love. Perhaps this familiar progression is what some think of as soap opera material; and perhaps it is, although their affair is only a small part of the film, and at any rate, such behavior is entirely consistent with Eliane's character and that of Jean-Baptiste, and is necessary for the plot developments to come.

Deneuve was nominated for Best Actress by the Academy but didn't win (Emma Thompson won for Howard's End), but the film itself won as Best Foreign Film. In truth Deneuve's performance is a little uneven. Regardless, this is one of the most important roles in the career of an actress who was as beautiful in 1991 when this film was made as she had been in The Umbrellas of Cherbourg (1964) at the beginning of her career. Indeed, I would say even more beautiful. My favorite Deneuve film, by the way, is Mississippi Mermaid (1969) with Jean-Paul Belmondo directed by Francois Truffaut.

Also uneven is the direction by Regis Wargnier. The scenes set in Saigon involving the French and the Mandarins at their pleasures amid their wealth as they maintain their privilege are done with strikingly beautiful interiors splashed with the kind of color seen in, for example, the films of Chinese director Zhang Yimou. The scenes amount to indictments of the French and demonstrate why the communists eventually came to power. Note that the privileged are always decked out in the most amazing displays of color while the workers and the peasants are brown and dirty.

The panoramic cinematography of the Vietnamese country is also strikingly beautiful. We are shown the sheer cliffs falling into tranquil waters dotted with junks, the rock outcrops nestled in verdant growth, the angry skies, and the deluge of the monsoon. But the trek of Camille across the land to find her beloved is not realistically done. Her quick incorporation in a peasant family is also not convincing. And the following scene in which she and Jean-Baptiste escape from the slave market defies probability. However what becomes of her and him is brutally realistic and consistent with what we know about those times, although I would like to have seen them being fed when they are rescued and some indication of how they spent their time in that Shangri-la-like hidden valley.

Despite the flaws and inconsistencies, this is a fine cinematic experience, enthralling, disturbing and visually beautiful. See this as a prelude to all other films about Vietnam and the Vietnam War. What will become clear is how foolish was our involvement and how doomed to failure it had to be.

(Note: Over 500 of my movie reviews are now available in my book "Cut to the Chaise Lounge or I Can't Believe I Swallowed the Remote!" Get it at Amazon!)
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Third time to watch it, I still cried for 15 minutes
westpenn4917 August 2000
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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10/10
Beautifully done epic
snowball-156 June 2000
This is a wonderful very tragic movie about love triangle set against French fall down in Vietnam. I was actually quite surprised at one of the comments, which roughly said that the Vietnamese girl falls in love with French officer for no reason at all. Does not everybody know that love always happens for no reason at all? That is why many famous love stories are tragic, people tend to fall in love with completely wrong people, from different perspectives.

I did not seem wrong to me that Elaine was "mothering" her Vietnamese workers. Remember "Gone with the wind"? How Scarlett's mother was treating her slaves, tending to them when they were sick? I believe that many people felt that way towards their slaves/servants/workers. Elaine grew up in Vietnam, she thought about it as her home and Vietnamese as her people, though in a bit simplistic way. What I am trying to say, is that her relationship with Vietnamese in the movie does not look untrue. Perhaps to some people it just looks politically incorrect these days, when most people think that colonization was all that bad. It is too complicated an issue and the movie was not about it. On the contrary, the movie wins while portraying both caring and cruel French people in Indochina, not painting only with black and white colors, rather raising questions, than giving simplistic answers. It is rare in movies these days. This movie is done with impeccable European charm and gets 10/10 from me.

I am ready to defend my viewpoint at the Message Boards any time.
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8/10
This movie is a lesson in Vietnamese history and geography wrapped in a paper of romance and marvelous landscapes
philip_vanderveken7 April 2005
If we think about movies that deal with the recent past of Vietnam, then everybody immediately thinks of war movies like for instance, Platoon, Apocalypse Now, The Deer Hunter... But why is that? I know how important this war was for the Americans as well as for the Vietnamese, but this is an old country with an ancient culture that has a lot more to offer than the battles, bombs and booby traps in the jungle, the rice fields or the cities. "Indochine" is a movie that tries to show us another part of the country's history. It deals with the latest years of French colonial times in Vietnam or Indochine as they called it back then.

The story starts in the 1930's at one of the largest rubber-tree plantations in Indochine (Vietnam). This plantation is owned by the French colonist Eliane, a proud woman who lives with her father and her native adoptive daughter Camille. She doesn't have a husband or a man in her life (apart from her father), but gets to know the young officer Jean-Baptiste when both want to buy the same painting at an auction. They have a short affair, but than she refuses to see him again. In the meantime it's Camille who has fallen in love with Jean-Baptiste and Eliane knows it. She makes sure he's send to one of the most desolate outposts on some remote island, making sure that the two will never see each other again. Camille has no choice, but to marry the man she was promised to, but in the meantime she starts a search to find the man she really loves.

This could have been a romantic movie in a different setting than we are used to, but nevertheless one like we have seen many more before. And in a way it is, but the movie has a lot more to offer as well. It shows the atrocities committed by the French, the great poverty of the indigenous people, the rise of Communism and the futile attempts to stop them (before the French got involved in the war that would later be continued by the Americans). This movie is a lesson in history and geography wrapped in a paper of romance and marvelous landscapes. It was beautiful and dramatic at the same time. I was touched and amazed by it and really liked it a lot. That's why I give this movie at least an 8/10.
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9/10
Good movie with Educational value to boot!
tony-7644 April 2005
I first saw this movie as a college project and was just blown away. It has a really decent plot that allows one to enjoy the movie while giving a history lesson and some of the reasons for the war between the French and Vietnamese people. A good see for those who want to see a different kind of movie and a MUST see for anyone interested in the history of the French involvement in Vietnam and the reasons for the intense dislike of the French by the common man in Vietnam. The scenery is outstanding. You will need to be ready to pay attention because the movie is in French and has English Subtitles. I think that this adds to the allure of the movie and did not take away from my enjoyment.
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In some ways, the most informative of the 'Vietnam-era' movies..
Shmo20 February 1999
I've seen at least 10-20 post-Vietnam movies, nearly all concentrating on the war or the aftermath of a war in a country that most Americans know absolutely nothing about (including me).

What a relief it was to learn something about the years of mistreatment Indo-Chine (or Vietnam) suffered at the hands of the French colonists who seem to have the 'reverse-Midas-touch' when it comes to their land possessions. Then again, I suppose this is the way of all colonists who invariably mistreat their 'possessions'..

The acting was terrific by all involved. Learning the pre-war background behind the extreme North/South polarizations and seeing all the strife that's touched Vietnam was the best lesson I've yet gleaned from any Vietnam movie.

I think a cure has finally been developed for Oliver Stone.

As high a rating as possible.
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8/10
Superb drama, beautiful scenery and beautiful Deneuve
mrfrane7 September 2001
A beautiful film about the latter years of the French colonial era in Vietnam. I notice some comments that seem confused about Deneuve's characters attitude toward the Vietnamese on her rubber plantation. They find her "maternalism" offensive and therefore? what, they don't like the film? What do they expect from a colonialist? Compare this to Mel Gibson's character in The Patriot, a slave owner who has released all his slaves (1700s) and re-hired them. Is this more believable? More comfortable?

The French exploited the natural resources and the population of Vietnam; that's what colonialism was all about, and I don't see that this film is even faintly supportive of colonialism. On the contrary, Indochine offers some clarity about what the Vietnamese were rebelling against, and background for the conflict that would later pull in the US.

And a gorgeous, gorgeous movie.
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Wonderful Moving, Movie
Amel7 October 2000
Indochine is a wonderful, poignant film set in the 30's during the French Vietnam conflicts. Catherine Deneuve is the terribly engrossing heroine,Elaine Devries, who uses her wealthy status as a rubber plantation owner to cover up her affairs. However, things get complicated when her adopted daughter falls in love with her much younger lover. This movie shows a wonderful unbiased perspective about Vietnam, and the acting is superb, with Vincent Perez and Dominique Blanc. This is a intricate and complex movie that will leave you thinking long after the movie is finished.
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10/10
Still One of the Grand Classics
naginata6 January 2002
Not many foreign films have caught my eye. A lot of them seem surreal and have hidden messages that you have to try hard to convey. Indochine is different. It is intense and gripping and all the while you never lose sense of the message. The love story intertwined makes it remarkably attractive to females, the adventure makes it great for males, and the epic history of Vietnam makes it a masterpiece to critics and professionals. I thoroughly found this film to excel and it does live up to its praise.
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10/10
This movie deserves all the awards it got
loubergrh20 June 2006
Just watched this movie on VHS on a TV. It was not like seeing it for the first time on a large screen in a theater. Watched it in French without subtitle, because I am bilingual. Probably that is helps to like the movie. The plot is a bit stretched, but the historical perspective is very good. It serves as a good educational tool, to understand the reasons behind the defeat of France and after that the USA. The scenery is just incredible. Deneuve is a great actress and the other actors too including even minor supporting actors. It is not an action pack movie with a rapid pace; but the plot is so interesting, it is never boring.
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7/10
good
dmy99994 April 2005
I first saw this movie in a french class at univ. I don't think it is a film talking about communists or communism,it is more like a brief history of Vietnam under control by France. Every country has its own style and way of developing,so telling a love story can't part from the condition or the atmosphere.It is not a happy-ending love story,I don't know whether "tragedy" is a proper word, but it fills with joys and sorrows.I like something with deep meanings and deep feelings or emotions.Indochine is right for me.I am not sure where the film was shot,the scenery is nice and characteristic. The roles are vivid and rich,esp Eliane played by Catherine Deneuve. Although i had to read the English subtitles while listening to french, the film still grabbed my attention tightly.
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8/10
Indochine review by a twenty-something male
chriscis6 September 2005
I was never aware of this film, perhaps because I was not of the appropriate age to appreciate, but I must say, about thirteen years after its theatrical release, I was quite pleased with it on every level. Not only were the locations appropriately beautiful, and the cinematography mature and relaxed, but the acting, casting, plot development, and dialogue were in beautiful harmony. The film was a fantastic lesson in history to which Vietnam and the rest of us are owed. To satisfy length requirements for my comments, I will add, that this crew did not shy away from showing characters who experience anger, insult, jealousy, pain and all the rest with true precision. It is nice to see fine acting and depth with appropriate casting. I recommend this film to anyone who wants to see color and who can read subtitles. I would also recommend that this film be viewed in two or three sittings. I did this because of disruptions, but actually, this respite added to the inherent suspense of each characters' fate and made the film easier to digest on a whole. Nonetheless, you will find, that the film flows and throws in excitement just where it is needed.
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Praise for the Film, seen frequently now on BRAVO
wilso12719 June 2000
One of the ten greatest films of the last 25 years. I could watch it again and again for the nuances and the scenery and the recreation of an age and a place. Right up there with the best! DeNeuve deserved the Oscar she didn't get.
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10/10
Beautiful, Moving & Tragic
ttbrowne14 March 2002
I got a better understanding of why the Vietnamese people turned to Communism. Hell, With folks like the French as the murdering, raping, occupying force, who wouldn't rebel. But the film isn't just a social commentary, It's a beautiful albeit tragic love story. I didn't particularly like the ending. I was looking for that reconciliation but then I realized it doesn't always happen that way. See it. The acting is superb, the storyline and cinematography is great and, even if you don't want to, you'll learn something about history.
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10/10
One of the greatest films ever made
skeeshabeesh20 August 2002
I saw this movie first when I was only 14 and I fell in love with it. It has a wonderful storyline and it keeps you involved from beginning to end. The cast is magnificent, each playing their character with amazing believability and accuracy. Besides being educational (for those of us who are or were unversed in the history of the rubber industry in Indo-China, as I was), it also has stunning cinematography. There are plenty of pan and aerial shots to keep you amazed throughout the movie. The only disadvantage for some viewers may be that it is French with English subtitles. But if you decide to rent this movie, I highly doubt you will be disappointed, it's a definite 10 out of 10.
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8/10
Complete Story of Vietnam's Colonial Period
jmverville20 October 2004
If you are looking for a complete and touching story of Vietnam under colonialism, this would be one of the better films to watch. I found the setting and the portrayal of Viet Nam to be very thought-provoking and historical, and I felt that the roles that the characters played were compelling.

The human story is very complete in its' portrayal, at the end leaving you fulfilled with the time that you have invested. It is quite thought-provoking and emotional, from start to finish.

The evolution of the film and the growth of its' characters left nothing to be desired, and it was definitely well-executed with a historical, haunting background.
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9/10
Exquisite cinema.
obscure_note6 March 2008
Warning: Spoilers
(SPOILERS)

Regis Wargnier's Indochine is superb. The premise is simple enough: Eliane, a wealthy French landowner has an adopted Vietnamese daughter during French Indochina. Her life revolves her adored daughter and her extensive rubber plantation. Ultimately, they separate.

But what's complex is the relationship between Eliane and the people she controls (her workers, her child) which underlines the fraught relationship an empire has with her colonies. Eliane symbolizes the French empire while Camille symbolizes Indochina (which ultimately broke free from France). Eliane is both paternalistic and maternal, both cruel and kind at the same time, a privilege the empires have on their colonies. She protects a little boy, she whips a male worker for an offense - all this regarded by her as something maternal: a parent's love towards her child. She adores her plantation and runs it effectively and proudly.

At the same time, she passionately loves Camille who is very close to her; too passionately perhaps to the point of being controlling like she is with everything in her life. She tells Camille that there is no difference between races, that she (Eliane) is in fact Asian (as she was born in Indochina and has lived all her life there). But this is far from the truth. There is in fact an unequal relationship, of which Eliane enjoys the better end of the stick. The passionate tango which the mother and daughter performs at their Christmas party shows this. At first glance the dance is innocent. However, we see that Eliane whispers to Camille that she wants to be alone with her in a mountain chalet "like in the fairy tales". This parodies a heterosexual courting relationship and illustrates Eliane's masculinity (equated with the need to dominate) - not surprising as Eliane is thrust into the role of command usually linked to men and therefore enjoy the privileges accorded to men. This also illustrates the fact that despite their bond, there's no doubt that Eliane is linked to European privilege and that Camille is pampered, adored and doesn't stray far - France's exotic little pet.

But ultimately Indochina decides she no longer wants to be a pet. The turning point of the mother-daughter relationship starts when young and handsome Jean-Baptiste, a naval officer, enters the picture. Eliane's and Camille's tranquil life together is rocked. Eliane's usual cold and distant (and not to mention, secretive) approach to relationships is shattered when she actually falls for hims; the situation is made impossible when her daughter Camille also falls for Jean-Baptiste after being "saved" by him at a shooting. Jealous and hurt, Eliane orders him to be posted to the remote Con Dao islands. However, she underestimates Camille's will. Love-struck, Camille sets out cross country to go to Jean-Baptiste. Eliane and Camille's relationship as they knew it is never the same again.

Indochine is a superb picture illustrating a mother's love and control towards her child, and how the dependent child must ultimately separate, a metaphor of the fact that all empires end.

Make no mistake that this is France's story of the empire she lost; in fact from the very start of the movie, we hear Eliane narrating the story. Even when Camille was running away through the countryside, it is through Eliane's lens that we see the voyage. We don't see her Communist training. The details are unknown to Eliane. Eliane is simply imposing her emotions and narration on what happened, just like an empire imposes and creates the stories of her colonies.

The story is told with a charismatic soundtrack and cinematography. The shots of the Vietnamese countryside and the famous Ha Long Bay simply take your breath away, alongside with the shots of the rubber plantation misty in the morning. Eliane's wardrobe is also a feast for the eyes.

Excellent performances from Catherine Deneuve and Linh Dam Pham, whose portrayal of their characters' outward restraint and control also successfully show us their turmoil and pain. Deneuve was truly deserving of her Oscar nomination and Cesar win (alongside with the Golden Globe). Indochine has become one of her celebrated latter-day works, and rightly so.

However, one point off for the movie taking too long to unfurl; there is a sub-plot involving Yvette, the wife of Eliane's French coolie, that I did not care to know about. But over-all, a superb film, greatly nostalgic, which at the end may leave you with a heavy, melancholic feeling.
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10/10
great film!
peterhaily8 January 2007
This film was made with such breathtaking care that I don't expect to see another film that will move me with such intensity. The story line is told with painstaking detail in Vietnam against the back drop of war, and that's what makes this movie so poignant, you understand the characters, through the little details, so well, that you cannot help but feel that what you perceive is what these characters are feeling. I literally cried throughout 15 of the films' 90 minute runtime, not just a tear in the eye "oh that's too bad," but sobbing "OH MY GOD WHY, WHY DOES THIS HAVE TO HAPPEN?!" Catherine's character and the Vietnam girl play it to perfection.

I remember a comment kept running through my head, "this is not fair, it's not fair it had to happen to them, it's not their fault, dammit it's not their fault." This film is a representation of how good dramatic anime can be, if used correctly. There are no kung fu fights, or mysterious dragons, only reality. Such horrible wonderful reality that one will find that they cannot think about war in the same way as they did before. I know that this was the greatest war movie I have ever seen. It also might just be the greatest film ever. See it, don't walk, run, you must see this
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Colonialism presides over its own destruction; Amor Vincit Omnia.
imdke9 February 2007
Some of the INDOCHINE comments already posted are so powerful that I was hesitant to offer my own. I am not an authority on the art of cinema, preferring to experience films and then see what I think/feel about them. INDOCHINE is a profoundly beautiful and moving film. I watch it now and then to recalibrate my moral compass.

Background: I believe that colonialism's fate was sealed with the invention of movable type. Granted, it seemed unstoppable for a few centuries, but all forms of Manifest Destiny, et. al, like all dogs, eventually have their day. So will those that are currently wallowing in "puerile, self-congratulatory nationalism," to borrow a phrase from Carl Sagan.

Philosophically speaking, colonialism, like slavery, is indefensible. What's to like, unless you're the one doing it? True, there are films that celebrate the triumph of colonial powers over lesser beings. Here are three: THE FOUR FEATHERS, THE SAND PEBBLES, sort of, and GUNGA DIN, also sort of. GUNGA DIN, however, imputes more intelligence to the erudite Thugee leader, GURU, than the three loutish British noncoms who fight him to preserve the RAJ. The noble, water-carrying Gunga Din, a sort of human reincarnation of Rin-Tin-Tin, saves the day and gives his life for his beloved leaders. More than often, such films serve patriotic purposes. Whatever works, eh?

INDOCHINE is a fine example of cinematic art with a strong message about social justice and the rights, under Natural Law, of all peoples. It is strikingly beautiful. But under all this beauty lay injustice, cruel exploitation and addiction to drugs and sexual appetites. One sees the rot and decay of the French and Mandarin ruling classes. Compared to them, the Communists didn't look half bad. For more on that subject, look up THE NEW CLASS, by Milovan Djilas, in Wikopedia if you don't want to read it.

Just as France held fast to her colonies in Indochina like a parasite, colonist/rubber plantation owner Emile fastened on to his daughter, Elaine. In turn, she clung to her beautiful adopted daughter, Camille.

The most striking metaphor was the Tango scene, in which mother and daughter danced a grotesque parody of romance. The young naval officer, Jean Baptiste, saw this very clearly. Confronting Elaine with this awful truth got him banished, his naval career in tatters (actually, it's not quite that simple).

It also put in motion a tragic set of events that convulsed the lives of all concerned. The love between Camille and Jean Baptiste survived, living on through their infant son, Etienne, who was adopted and raised by Elaine.

Every time I watch this remarkable film I feel emotionally drained. Time to watch something light and funny, eh?
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10/10
masterpiece
kats-222 November 1998
A brilliant movie. I liked it very very much - great story, well-told, wonderful cast. There is everything in this story - atmosphere,love, pain, forgiveness. And Catherine Deneuve is a terrific choice - she is GREAT.
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An epic film of great beauty and historical relevance
klhunter1130 November 2007
"Indochine" is epic film-making of a kind rarely practiced any longer. To me, it brought to mind "Gone With The Wind" and the films of David Lean, but I enjoyed it far more. The film's cinematography, production design, and costumes are stunning - never forced or pretty for their own sake, but appropriate and executed with consummate craftsmanship. "Indochine" tells of the demise of French colonialism in what became Vietnam in an even-handed manner, never placing all virtue on any one side, but narrating its story through characters who are dimensional, flawed, and recognizably human; in only one case is there a character who is completely unsympathetic, and that is a bit part. It is never easy to create characters who exhibit reprehensible qualities but still keep the audience interested in and sympathetic to them; "Indochine" accomplishes this adroitly. The issues of France's colonial interest in Indochina come across in a natural, nuanced way through the actions of the large and varied cast, without it ever seeming like we're getting a history lesson. Catherine Deneuve's reputation as a somewhat chilly actress is used to good effect here, which is not to suggest that her performance is at all one-note. Of interest is the depiction of the relationship between the French, and the natives who are essentially subjugated and exploited; however, there is real affection, at times, between members of the two groups, until the forces of history take over. The story of "Indochine" has many parallels throughout history - the story of a European (or American) interest moving in on the resources of an undeveloped country and appropriating them for its own profit and to the detriment of the inhabitants of the region. Somehow it took me fifteen years to get around to seeing this film, and I was more than pleasantly surprised. The film exceeded my expectations, and I recommend it to anyone interested in intelligent, yet still entertaining, film-making.
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7/10
Istanbul Was Constantinople ...
writers_reign25 September 2005
Warning: Spoilers
... and there's a lot of that about because Vietnam WAS Indochina at the time this movie deals with which is primarily the 1930s. Eliane Devries (Catherine Deneuve) has both a daughter and a son yet has never given birth which is maybe a metaphor for France 'adopting' Indochina. Like Heart Of Darkness the film employs a frame-narrator in the shape of Deneuve who begins by telling her story to Camille (Linh Dan Pham) whose parents have just been killed and because they were Eliane's best friends she has adopted Camille - who comes with a dowry of her parent's land which swell the size of Eliane's rubber plantation - and both raises and loves her as her own. Devries is a chic Frenchwoman who, for reasons never satisfactorily explained, has forsaken the chic, culture and civilisation of France for a superficially beautiful yet ultimately harsh land that's not unlike the ante-bellum South without the Mississippi. When a young naval officer, Jean-Baptiste (Vincent Perez) appears on the scene the inevitable happens and May and December have their mayfly moment. Jean-Baptiste was, of course, the name of the mime artist in Les Enfants du Paradis and is well chosen given that Perez, who has all the charisma of the Black Hole of Calcutta on a bad day, might just as well be miming for all the animation he brings to his lines. Equally inevitably Camille falls in love with him and when Deneuve has him transferred to a remote outpost Camille follows him and contrives to kill one of his colleagues putting them both on the run. All this is played out against the political unrest that is always a by-product of colonialism. In turn Camille has a child by Jean-Baptiste; he is killed, she becomes something of a Vietnamese La Passionara and Deneuve winds up holding the baby and it is he, now a grown man, to whom Deneuve is narrating the story in 1954 as Indochina became Vietnam. Weighing in at two and a half hours it requires stamina but in addition to Deneuve both Jean Yanne and Dominique Blanc are on hand and against all the odds it does keep you watching.
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4/10
Such an opportunity missed.
david-129930 March 2005
What could have been a wonderful film about the twilight of French Indochina is irretrievably lost in the turgid pot boiler of a melodramatic boy-girl-mom 'love' triangle that seems to have been plotted and scripted (even in the original French) by a first year drama student. Cinematography 100% though: it makes you weep. Such an opportunity missed.

Perhaps the film should be considered as a precursor of the late 90s series of 'classic' films where location and the reproduction of period detail become the focus of the production, overlooking the need for realistic - or at least believable - dramatic progression. The characters are beautiful people (Catherine Deneuve is spectacular as always), the location shots are wonderful, but the storyline is only just this side of trite. The film could be used as a classroom example of style-over-substance.
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