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Endings are always a difficult time. Empires fall and revolutions tear countries apart only to reform into new entities. But for the people who live through such times the end inevitably can come as a surprise. For around twenty-five years France has ruled over Indo-china, modern day Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos. Having appropriated the area under dubious circumstances, the French were in contention with both Siam and the indigenous peoples. As they came to the end of their rule their glory was fading and their decedent lifestyle corrupted from within...
Indochine (1992. 2 hrs, 31 min, 52 sec) is a historical drama directed by Régis Wargnier.
It’s the nineteen thirties and as well as raising her adopted daughter Camille (Linh Dan Pham), Elaine (Catherine Deneuve) is running her rubber plantation, not unlike the cotton fields of the American south, Into both of their lives arrives Jean-Baptiste (Vincent Perez) an attractive and emotionally explosive naval officer. Having been on her own for so long Elaine is immediately attracted to the young man and starts an affair with him. Unfortunately, Camille is likewise attracted setting off a series of tragic events set against the dying days of France's rule of Indochina. The film isn’t completely successful, the three-way love affair never feels momentous enough compared to the background events.
While some of her French contemporaries are contemptuous and even needlessly cruel to the indigenous people, Elaine runs her plantation with complete entitlement making her exploitation seem all the worse. The film shows the fading splendour and often hidden decadence of the regime, why they thought there would never be a revolution just shows the level of their arrogance. The film follows events from the thirties to the inevitable rise of the communist insurgency.
The historical changes are also reflected in the relationship between the three main characters. Although, having been raised by Elaine, Camille cannot ever forget her real ancestry or the effects the French have on her own countrymen. She finally breaks from Elaine when Jean-Baptiste saves her from a shootout. It is this act of heroism which makes her fall in love with him. And, when her mother has him exiled to a remote part of the country, Camille travels across country to find him.
Of course Catherine Deneuve brings her own beauty and elegance to the role and was nominated for an academy award - the film won for the best foreign feature. The film’s cinematography is sumptuous when it is showing the country, with lots of beauty shots which will probably add this as a holiday destination.
The film arrives as a two disc DVD set and while the film has been given the 4k treatment in reality a DVD doses not have the resolution to do the film justice. The film has two French audio tracks, DD5.1 and DD2.0 with optional English subtitles.
The film's extra are so extensive that it gets a whole disc to itself. Indochine: A French Epic (1 hr, 1 min, 19 sec) is a new documentary placing the film in its historical context, consisting of interviews with Deneuve, the director and a number of other stars.
Ambitious in its scope the film nearly completely hits all the right notes, with the arrogance of the French and the growing discontentment of the people they rule. The acting is universally good and of course any film with Deneuve is always worth a watch.
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