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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