Wednesday, June 03, 2009


A little too poker-facedly translated literally as The Lover in its UK release title, L'Amant shows the story of a weary love, transformed from a pick-up scene to something that leaves the lovers restless and in memories for all their lives. It's based on the novel of the same name by Marguerite Duras, and is on her own life story, when she was 15 in the erstwhile Indo-China.

Set in colonial Vietnam, the film stands out for the way Asia is shown, and it's easy to feel Marguerite Duras' love for the region through the camera of Robert Fraisse (he would team up for several films with director Jean-Jacques Annaud, including the highly impressive 2001 film Enemy At The Gates). But apart from shots celebrating the tiredness of both the protagonists, the film meaninglessly meanders along self-pity to self-pity, from the lazy Chinaman Tony Leung Ka Fai to the French girl who loves easy sex, easy money, who hates poverty, Jane March. It would be easy to justify March's character by the destitute poverty in which her family lives as white outcastes amid colored people, for whom they don't feel any human bonds. By the loveless atmosphere of her dsyfunctional family and a stone-hearted mother. By her seeming full of life to burst but with no outlet on whom. It would be more difficult though to know why the director shows the virgin who wants to just flower open so tired, so like experienced and weary. In another way, it's an interesting study too: the descents plumbed in order to gain power, to feel power, especially when one is yet searching for it and does not know where it truly lies. The Chinaman's character doesn't help either: just a weak man who lusts and then being not able to get the object of his lust, self-pities, hardly someone to be able to make a viewer hold out.

The film suffers from underdeveloped characters, thrown in maybe to bewilder the viewer even more: it hardly seems a French film at all, in fact it would be easy to think this as a Merchant Ivory production. The one place where the film pulls of a clever trick is when the film begins: the film shows the girl on the ferry and adeptly, imperceptibly moves to something that happened in the recent time before now, and then moves again to the now, the girl on the ferry. To add to this is that the now itself is in the flashback narrated in the lovely voice of Jeanne Moreau, and it's almost Faulknerian, maybe accidentally by the director since he never repeats this.

I haven't read the novel, but I think the screenplay could've been radically different on the same story: in spite of good cast selection, a beautiful music score, and an Academy Award-nominated cinematography, the film fails since it is unable to stop wallowing in its guilt of overzeal to show sex as 'demi-god' and yet finally ending up showing it as a game where both players always try to lose. There is a large hint of what might be happening and impending; however, there is less of an immediate good plot or reason to make the film itself.

No comments:

Post a Comment