Lover, The (1991) FR/VT

November 17, 2003 • Film, Reviews

Country: France/Vietnam
Director: Jean-Jacques Annaud
Producer: Claude Berri, Jacques Tronel
Writer: Jean-Jacques Annaud, Gérard Brach

Cast: Jane March, Tony Leung (Ka Fai), Frederique Meininger, Arnaud Giovaninetti, Melvil Poupaud, Lisa Faulkner, Xiem Mang, Philippe Le Dem, Ann Schaufuss, Quach Van An,

Running Time: 115 Min

Plot: Based on the autobiographical novel by Marguerite Duras, an erotic and sensitive story of a young French school girl who embarks on a torrid love affair with a wealthy Chinese man in 1929 French Colonial Vietnam. Consumed by desire, they cling to each other, even though fate and society dictates that they may never wed.

Magueritte Duras’ non-linear, autobiographical novel gets a straightforward, linear treatment by director Jean-Jacques Annau. (?) It stands as the only interesting movie by Jean-Jacques Annau I have seen.
That said, it captures much of the feel of Duras’ prose, as well as a beautiful sense of the place it is set. Setting is rarely so evocative as in this lushly beautiful movie.
It’s quite a sexy movie, about a young girl rather coldly allowing a wealthy Chinese playboy to take her virginity but not quite her heart. The young man suffers with desire for her, but he cannot defeat his family obligations and her lack of real interest in him. As things take their course, memory changes the events so that she begins to feel that she loved him and he felt much less for her.
The stars of this movie are excellent. Jane March does everything very well, but the real star of the picture is Tony Leung Kar-Fei, a great Hong Kong movie actor who had fallen into disgrace and financial failure at that point in his career. The international prestige of the project reinvigorated his acting demand, and Leung went on to more bracing work later on. Next to his work for Ringo Lam and his part in Michael Mak’s Island of Greed, this is his most subtle, nuanced performance.

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