Wednesday, July 27, 2011


While doing the "Henry & June" blog, my mind was locked in the era of the 30's... Now, allow me to talk about "Taboo," which comes to mind when one sees the movie "The Lover," reliving a story that took place in VietNam's 1929. A taboo is a strong social prohibition relating to any area of human activity or social custom that is sacred and forbidden based on moral judgment and religious beliefs. High on the list is that of forbidden love. And that is the subject of "The Lover." Many discussions about this movie always are focused on the sex scenes. I believe there are four of them, but that is not the only, nor is it the most interesting subject to talk about.

The Lover (French: L'Amant) is a 1992 film produced by Claude Berri and directed by Jean-Jacques Annaud. Based on the short Goncourt prize winning semi-autobiographical 1984 novel by Marguerite Duras, the film details the illicit affair between a teenage French girl and a wealthy Chinese man in Indochina, later known as Viet-Nam when it was still a colony of France, in 1929. In the screenplay written by Annaud and Gérard Brach, the girl's age is changed from 15½ to 17 and is portrayed by actress Jane March, who turned eighteen shortly after filming began.

Production began in 1989, with filming commencing in 1991. The film made its theatrical debut on 22 January 1992, with an English release in the United Kingdom in June and in the United States in October of the same year. The film won the Motion Picture Sound Editors's 1993 Golden Reel award for "Best Sound Editing — Foreign Feature" and the 1993 César Award for Best Music Written for a Film. It received mostly negative reviews from American critics. However the film's performances and cinematography were generally praised.

It is noteworthy that the movie director Annaud almost gave up to have the movie filmed in VietNam due to difficulties found in the country. Realizing they must film their movie in VietNam to retain authenticity, the team returned to VietNam and began filming. Despite tight censorship from the VietNamese government, the movie does contain steamingly hot sex scenes which are not of interest in this blog. Instead, this clip is shown because it contains very nostalgic imagery of the trip from Sa-Dec to Saigon via route 1, about 140km away. From Sa-Dec, where the teen-aged girl lived, passengers must cross one of the branches of the great Mekong river by ferry to reach route 1 by automobile. Route 1 first passes by Vinh Long, another river town downstream then to Saigon. The ferry name was Vam Cong, in the southern province of Dong Thap. The car used in this movie was an authentic Morris Léon-Bollée as it was identified in the book.

The scenery in this clip is strongly suggestive of VietNam in the 30s under French colonialism but the filming was in the 90s and on location. It is hard to believe that VietNam's Sa-Dec in the 90s still looks and sounds like what the movie is showing. I would love to find the behind the scene documentary of this movie to learn how this was done. Did you see the car traversing the wooden bridge? Is it real? There are many more scenes at various on site locations in this movie that tempt me to look further in its making... and keep me wondering how did they do that? But... if you are curious about the sex scenes, you probably will not see them here. The voice you hear recounting the teen-aged girl's life is that of the lovely French actress, singer, screenwriter and director Jeanne Moreau, a legend in her own right.

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