On the DVD The 16:9 wide-screen format reproduces best in the domestic scenes, and there are 30 individual chapter points, detailed in the interactive moving menu. The disc also has detailed filmographies for the main cast and director, including an entertaining "gossip" file for Deneuve. English subtitles are optional. A half-hour location report would have been worthwhile, but overall this is a persuasive presentation of one of the few genuine historical-romantic epics of the 1990s. --Richard Whitehouse
But most importantly, there's the excellent performance of the protagonists. All the actors are amazing and convincing in their roles. Deneuve is all elegance and restraint, perfect as Eliane. Vincent Perez is in top-form as Jean-Baptiste. His conversion from rigid military man to someone who finally opens up to what is before him, is utterly convincing. Linh Dam Pham is all allure, innocence and determination. She is a marvelous actress who can convey so many emotions with just a mere look.
The chemistry between the actors are also affecting. There's genuine maternal and filial affection between Eliane (Deneuve) and her adopted Indochinese daughter, Camille (Pham). Lust, decadence and pride dominate Eliane's and Jean-Baptiste illicit affair. Love is in its purest form in the relationship of Camille and Jean-Baptiste. The scenes between Perez and Pham are both tender and sensual, evoking some of the most romantic and unforgettalbe scenes in movie history.
All the protagonists try to avoid the inevitable...the collapse of French control in Indochina...but when fate catches up with them, the events that take place are emotionally wrenching.
The other reviews have pretty much given a thorough synopsis of this movie. But what they forget to mention is that this is a movie driven by two strong female characters. Deneuve and Pham are both stunningly beautiful. Both project an inner strength that convinces the audience that they are not victims, despite all the tragedies they have gone through. Pham's portrayal becomes all the more significant since this is one of those rare movies which shows an Asian woman who is independent and someone who forges her own destiny.
I don't know what else I can say about this movie except that after watching it, it will never leave you. There's beauty, pain, passion and love. What other movie achieves all that.
Director Reigis Wargnier has created a masterpiece of epic beauty, showing us the country of Vietnam when it existed as the French colony Indochine. He shows how and why the communist uprising was so popular and the way of life it threatened. It does not make judgements but shows the human drama and the heartbreak caused by a way of life that existed and the one that was coming to change it.
Wargnier accomplishes all this in a slow and visually stunning portrait of one family in Indochine centering around the magnificent performance of Catherine Deneuve as French rubber plantation owner Eliane Deveries and the equally terrific Linh Dan Phan as her adopted Indochine daughter Camille. The contrasts of Eliane's cool elegance and Camille's young and sensual beauty is like a mirror for the country itself as Wargner shows the difference between the French and those that serve them.
Eliane runs her rubber plantation with the help of her 'coolies' and it appears to be her entire life except for her daughter Camille. Eliane's cool outward elegance only masks the repressed emotions she hides from others. Her affairs have been casual and she believes indifference is the secret to surviving love. But that indifference changes dramatically as she finally falls hard for young French Naval Officer Vincent Perez (Jean-Baptiste Le Guen). She throws herself at him as he draws away and discovers she is not enough for Vincent.
There is much unrest at the class distinctions of Indochine. Eliane's Indochine is one of elegance and self-indulgence. It is a world of Fitzgerald and Gatsby. The world of the Indochene people is more severe. This film takes it's time showing us all that is beautiful about the country and slowly begins to show the darkness underneath that beauty when Camille falls in love with Vincent also. Eliane is stunned beyond words but not actions as she uses her clout to have him transferred to the farthest outpost so Camille can go through with an arranged marriage to Tanh (Eric Nguyen).
But Eliane has underestimated her daughter's love for Vincent and she runs away to find him. Vincent has learned about the slave trade which provides Eliane and others like her with their workers in this remote French outpost and sees firsthand it's brutality. When Camille finds him it is during the picking of these workers and a tragedy forces both to flee to a place hidden and supposedly cursed where their love will bloom and a legend will start. There are some tender and moving moments and some true heartbreak involving a baby.
As the communist revolution grows stronger and Camille is imprisoned, Vincent will meet Eliane once more. It is only when Camille is imprisoned that she is even sure she is alive. Her long time aquaintance Guy (Jean Yanne) has been searching for years as the legend of this young beauty has grown so that everyone in the country knows the story. Once released she will be the one to help change the country forever, but not before a heartbreaking meeting with her mother and a sacrifice of love.
This film may indeed be slow but it is emotionally rich and the visual beauty of the country itself is magnificently captured. Deneuve's cool elegance is perfect for the part and her Oscar nomination was well deserved. Linh Dan Phan is wonderful as Camille as she goes from the innocence of dancing with her mother to her country's Joan of Arc. There are no judgements made here. This is a human film and not a political one. This film is what a Renoir painting would be if it could leave the canvas and find our hearts.
Watch this film and stay with it. It is richly rewarding and certainly one of the finest films ever made. It's quiet beauty and sorrow you will not soon forget. You must see, and own, this magnificent film.
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