February 3rd, 2007
Based on a novel by French writer Marguerite Duras, published in 1984 and concerned with the writer’s early years in Vietnam (then Indochine) in the 1930s. Directed in English by Jean-Jacques Annaud (Seven Years in Tibet).
Jane March plays a French teenager who is seduced by a wealthy Chinese man in his thirties (Tony Leung). The lovers meet repeatedly in a cloistered apartment, just steps from the sounds and smells of the marketplace.
The mood of the film is one of overwhelming sadness, as both characters are incapable of acknowledging or articulating their feelings. Both are outsiders in Vietnam. Each is trapped, the girl by poverty, the man by his social position, and both by the expectations of their families. As well, whatever love might have grown between them is doomed by the contempt each has for the other’s race.
I like this film, although I’m one of the few who does: Rotten Tomatoes gives it a rating of just 33%. I find it sad, mildly erotic, mysterious, and beautiful. I’ve seen it a couple of times and I recommend it.