Monday, May 16, 2011

Top 5 Movies About Vietnam

When I first became passionately interested in Vietnam there was remarkably little film about Vietnam. There was, of course, a huge body of work about the war, but very little indeed about Vietnamese people and culture. There is more around these days, and, for what it's worth, here are my five favourite movies about Vietnam. It is certain to be an idiosyncratic list, and I am happy to hear about your suggestions - would love to know what you think should be on the list:

  1. The Scent of Green Papaya - It had to be first, didn't it? This is still THE quintessential Vietnam movie - the first time I ever saw a genuinely Vietnamese mood conveyed on the big screen. Spare, beautiful and utterly original, I could watch this lovely film over and over again. And it was all filmed in France!

2.Heaven and Earth - I don't actually know many people who like this film, but I think it is quite the best film about the Vietnam war ever made. Oliver Stone was convinced by Le Ly Haslip to make a movie about the Vietnamese people's suffering during the war, and together they created quite an odd but still very moving film. You may have overlooked it, or dismissed it as a war film. If you love Vietnam, check it out - I think you will be pleasantly surprised.

3. Three Seasons - Not much to say about this arthouse favourite. It screened for weeks here in Sydney when it first came out, and it really is very good.

4. Cyclo - Maybe it's a cop out to give Tran Anh Hung two mentions, but this is the ultimate Saigon movie, and the lead actor Le Van Loc is just so perfectly natural - to the extent that some critics didn't quite get his performance. For anyone who knows Vietnam, his performance is spot on, and he is possessed of an understated sexuality that is quite engrossing.

5. The Lover - Oh dear, this is a sexy one, be warned. Purists might be horrified that I list this, but it is a beautiful film, and the ultimate colonial fantasy. And the doomed sexual relationship is played out perfectly - capturing the mood of Duras' novel quite cleverly.

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