Showing posts with label Indochina. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Indochina. Show all posts

25 November 2013

Film review/recensione: The lover /L'amante (1992), by Jean-Jacques Annaud, *****

testo italiano di seguito


The Lover is director Jean-Jacques Annaud's adaptation of Marguerite Duras' minimalist 1984 novel. Set in French Indochina in 1929, the film explores the erotic charge of forbidden love. Jane March plays a French teenager sent to a Saigon boarding school, while Tony Leung is a 32-year Chinese aristocrat. They look at each and they both see a blinding white flash; it's kismet. He offers her a ride in his limousine and soon they meet in his "bachelor room" where they revel in a wide variety of creative sexual encounters. However, they both realize their love is doomed.

She comes from a troubled family that includes a mentally-disturbed mother (Frederique Meininger) and drug-addicted brother (Arnaud Giovaninetti). It also appears that her family would not approve of an interracial tryst. But then neither would his family, since in order to inherit his father's wealth, he must not break from a traditional Chinese arranged marriage.


A high-quality erotic movie, of course, and a deeply romantic one. Deep passion intertwined with surrepetitiousness and sin. Very exciting.

But for me the main picture was that of colonian life in Vietnam in the French colonial time. Here we see as Asian man in control of a beautiful European lady. He is Chinese, not the colonized Vietnamese, but still an "Asian". Despite his wealth and sophistication he is still considered a second tier person by the white colonizers. But here he is in control. And she, too, frees herself from the constraint of her condition as a white lady at a boarding school, and takes her liberties with the man she loves. Or maybe does not love, but desires.

Duras said her book was partly autobiographical, which adds interest and lends credibility to the story.


Sul finire degli anni venti, in Indocina una ragazza di quindici anni, figlia di una donna povera, conosce l'uomo piu' ricco della regione. Fra i due nasce una grande passione, ma le rigide convenzioni sociali finiranno per prevalere sull'amore.


L'Amante è un film di grande sensualità ed intensità emotiva. Passione e trasgressione si mischiano per creare una miscela esplosiva. Molto eccitante. Questo è il primo messaggio che recepiamo dal film.

Tuttavia per me il secondo, e forse più importante, messaggio è quello di farci vedere la vita nell'Indocina colonizzata dai francesi negli anni venti del XX secolo. Vediamo un uomo asiatico (un cinese, non un vietnamita colonizzato) che controlla una bella donna bianca del paese colonizzatore. Nonostante la sua ricchezza e la sua sofisticata classe, egli è pur sempre un asiatico e come tale considerato una persona di seconda categoria. Ma qui è lui che domina la situazione. Ma anche la ragazza si libera delle costrizioni imposte dalla sua condizione di bianca e si prende le sue libertà con l'uomo che ama. O forse che non ama, ma che vuole.

Duras ha scritto che il suo libro è in parte autobiografico, il che accresce la credibilità e l'interesse per la storia qui esposta.

Versione italiana del DVD

09 December 2011

Map Review: Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Freytag & Berndt, ****

Explore Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia with this Freytag&Berndt road map. The best way to plan your trip, prepare your itinerary, and to travel independently in this part of Southeast Asia.

10 May 2005

Book Review: Dear Mom, a Sniper's Vietnam, by Joseph T. Ward, ***

The letters Joseph Ward, one of the elite Marine Scout Snipers, wrote home reveal a side of the Vietnam war seldom seen. Whether under nigthly mortar attack in An Hoa, with a Marine company in the bullet-scarred jungle, on secret missions to Laos, or on dangerous two-man hunter-kills, Ward lived the war in a way few men did. And he fought the enemy as few men did--up close and personal.

02 September 2004

Book Review: Cambodia, by Anita Sach, *****


A guide to the cultural attractions of this emerging destination. Explore the grand ruins of Ankor Wat's temples, as well as areas of Cambodia just opening up to travellers, with this practical and thorough guide.

12 September 2002

Book Review: "Off the Rails in Phnom Penh, by Amit Gilboa, ****


Phnom Penh in the 1990s is a city of beauty and degradation, tranquillity and violence, and tradition and transformation; a city of temples and brothels, music and gunfire, and festivals and coups...

02 September 2002

Bibliography: Books on Cambodia and Laos

Here are my best picks of books on these two countries I visited in 2002.

Click on hyperlinks to see my reviews of these books and buy them on Amazon.

31 August 2002

Book Review: "First they killed my father", by Loung Ung, *****

An unforgettable narrative of war crimes and desperate actions from a childhood survivor of Cambodia's brutal Pol Pot regime.

30 August 2002

23. - 30 AUG: Bangkok, end of the trip.

I have a couple of days in Bangkok before heading out of Indochina. The name means the “city of angels” and it is twinned, guess what, with Los Angeles in California!

29 August 2002

22. - 29 AUG: Exit Indochina

Monks alms procession

On my last day in Luang Prabang one of my goals was to be at sunrise on top of the Phousi mountain to take a few good dawn shots of the city and its surroundings. I had set the alarm clock for a quarter to five in the morning, but as it often happens to me when something important is at stake I woke up just a few minutes before it went off. How our internal clock can be so precise it is difficult for me to fathom. Be that as it may, I was immediately awake and fully alert. I was not tired, despite the early hour and the long transfers of the previous days. The sky was heavily clouded, not the best photo weather at all, to put it mildly. I realized there would be no chance for the Phousi I had been planning for, it will have to be on the next trip to Luang Prabang. I was disappointed, and the temptation to go back to sleep and wait for a civilized eight o’clock breakfast was a powerful one. However, I was up now and when I heard the irresistible call of the gong from the Wat Xieng Muang next door my mind was quickly made up and I decided to go look for the monks doing their begging rounds, a daily routine but always an intense moment to witness. In a minute I was out in the street and began looking around and listening...

28 August 2002

21. - 28 AUG: Luang namtha – Luang Prabang

Today not much to note, just a long transfer to Luang Prabang, where we go and sleep at the same guesthouse as before.

Along the way a reminder of Europe: at a village that seems in pretty good shape we see a big sign with the blue flag and a circle of 12 stars of the European Union, which has funded development projects in the area.

27 August 2002

20. - 27 AUG: Muang Sing - Luang Namtha

Another town which was much destroyed by US bombing and has now found a new lease on life from tourism and trade with China – lots of advertising boards in Chinese here, and several hotels and restaurants are owned by Chinese interests; Chinese products, including food, is widely available. We are unmistakably very very close to China...

26 August 2002

19. - 26 AUG: Muang Sing market, trek in the jungle

Muang Sing market

Six o’clock in the morning and the market is already in full swing. Ladies from around the province are deployed to their negotiating positions behind tightly packed stands: fruits, vegetables, spices, sweets, the usual suspects as far as country markets go. But some not so usual foodstuffs did make me wonder what kind of recipes would be prepared that evening in some of Muang Sing’s homes: roasted and live beetles, whole raw pig heads, buckets of chicken paws…

25 August 2002

18. - 25 AUG: Udom Xai to Muang Sing

At dawn I get up and head to town. A pale almost-full moon is still high in the sky. The predictable trickle of monks drips down the one hundred or so irregular steps which lead to their dormitory at the top of the “that”, their rice baskets secured around their shoulders. Oudomxai is coming to life quickly and noisily. The market was already in full swing by the time I got there around half past six. Like the town it is part of, the market is a melting pot of cultures: Lao food is on offer side by side with Vietnamese and especially Chinese supplies. Not a few signs in fact are in Chinese. This is an important junction between the three countries, and after the end of the war it gradually came back to economic life.

24 August 2002

17. - 24 AUG: Muang Khua to Udom Xai

Departure after the usual banana pancakes for breakfasts, I am getting a bit tired of them but heck... It is not without some apprehension that we started our drive from Muang Khua toward the Oudomxai province. We had been warned of landslides, uncertain how long it would take or even whether we would make it at all. We had also been assured that work was in progress to clear the roads, but somehow that did not quite sound as reassuring as we would have wished. So we are off, no choice now...

23 August 2002

16. - 23 AUG: From Nong Kiaw to Muang Khua by slow boat

At the crack of dawn a madly crowing rooster woke everyone up. He must have been worried that if we had overslept we would have missed the beautiful early morning colors. Thanks to the cock’s zeal we could finally enjoy, over breakfast, the verandah’s river view we had only been able to imagine the previous evening.

22 August 2002

15. - 22 AUG: Luang Prabang - Nong Kiaw (Muang Ngoy): against the current on a slow boat on the Nam Ou river

On a slow motor pirogue up the Mekong

Again up at dawn, at 7:00am we were at the Luang Prabang ferry harbor on the Mekong, just a five minute walk from our guesthouse. We load up and we are off. As we leave the last houses of Luang Prabang behind us, our slow boat begins to claw its way against the slow current of the Mekong. Soon, there is only virgin jungle all around us, and the impenetrable vegetation tumbles down decisively into the water from steep cliffs.

21 August 2002

14. - 21 AUG: Luang Prabang by bike, traditional dances, local music

Full day around town by bike. It is a pleasant and easy town to savor at leisure. Some traditional Lao houses on stilts still stand in the historical center. Just before sunset I walk up the steps of the hill of Phou Si monastery, from which one can enjoy a spectacular view over the whole valley and the Mekong.

20 August 2002

13. - 20 AUG: Luang Prabang

All day around town, each on his own. I start wondering around and love to get lost... Breakfast at the same Scandinavian bakery I had seen in Vientiane! Globalization...

I start my classic tourist rounds at the Royal Palace museum. This was the seat of the monarchy when Luang Prabang was the capital of Laos at different times in its history. One curious exhibit here is a piece of moon rock, taken by one of the Apollo missions and donated by the USA. At the time of my visit the many gifts received from abroad were categorized as coming from “socialist” or “capitalist” countries!

Later on I get into a silversmith shop and can photographs some artisans at work. There is actually some interesting local manufacturing here, silk, wood carvings, jewellery.

The rest of the day we spend with Roberto working to plan our upcoming trip to the hill tribes in the North. Because of the difficulty in road transportation during the rainy season dìwe decide to give up Pongsaly and head straight north along the Mekong and the Nam Ou riveers, and then due west by bus toward Muang Sing.

19 August 2002

12. - 19 AUG: Vientiane to Luang Prabang

Wake up early for a walk around the capital town, nothing much really to write home about. Amazing to see rich Thailand across the river from Vientiane. Breakfast at Scandinavian Bakery near the waterfront. Sweden has been a long time friend and donor to Laos, maybe this is why? Or perhaps there are enough Swedish NGOs here that some entrepreneurial local decided to make money catering for them? After cappuccino and croissant we are off to the airport...

18 August 2002

11. - 18 AUG: Pakse to Vientiane

Early rise and uneventful flight to Vientiane, the rather plain looking capital. We check in our hotel and take a walk around the city. A wine shop just a couple of doors from my hotel is perhaps one of the single most surprising sites in Laos. It is a gently air-conditioned, softly lit shop, with a very pretty multilingual Lao lady working at the counter and eager to step up and explain the most detailed nuances about French wines. In a way this shop is a cultural shock, given the context in which it is located. However, come to think of it, it is a shock only inasmuch as I assume that in poor Laos there would be no chance of finding a good shop with excellent wines. Worse, if I subconsciously assumed that no one could possible want this expensive wine in a 300-dollar-a-year salary population. In fact, it should be quite normal for a capital city, albeit of a small country, to have at least one good wine shop, should it not? Not everyone in a poor if the country is poor, of course, and in a capital city there are the embassies, foreign visitors, etc. all of whom can afford expensive wines and as far as the the Lao state is concerned this activity of course generates a revenue in the form of income and excise taxes from the sales, plus a few jobs in commerce, distribution, etc.