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France 1992
Directed by
Regis Wagnier
155 minutes
Rated M

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
3.5 stars


This elegaic, big budget historical piece starring Catherine Deneuve as Eliane, a plantation owner struggling to survive in the dying years of French colonial rule in South-East Asia won the Best Foreign Film Oscar in 1993 . The glorious location cinematography needs to be seen on the big screen to be appreciated, but, high production values aside, the complex story is overly long in the telling. The balance between the psychological tensions holding the characters together and their relationship to the larger historical issues is lost in the unfolding.

Deneuve, togged up in some fabulously chic outfits, looks fetching in a slightly faded way but as a planatation owner she lacks the plausibility brought to a similar role by Meryl Streep in Out Of Africa (1985) and although an attempt is made to give him some oomph, Vincent Perez as Jean-Baptiste, a handsome young French naval officer who takes her fancy, does not convince as anything more than a pretty boy. Similar criticism applies, for that matter, to Linh Dan Pham as Elaine's beautiful young adopted daughter who Jean-Baptiste understandably prefers.

Most of the characters such as Eliane's father, or the police chief who loves her, are underdeveloped or only loosely integrated into the narrative and in many ways the film, albeit much better made, recalls the kind of epic cross-cultural romances that Hollywood was so fond of in the 50s and 60s with their indulgence in the perceived exoticism of the Orient but no real connection with it.

DVD Extras: A contemporary behind-the-scenes featurette, Views of Indochina.

Available from: Umbrella Entertainment




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