Showing posts with label Vietnam. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Vietnam. 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

02 March 2013

Recensione: "Il mio cuore è più stanco della mia voce" (2012 postumo) di Oriana Fallaci, ****

Fallaci in Vietnam

Prima il Vietnam, poi Città del Messico e infine la storia d’amore con Alekos Panagulis, eroe della Resistenza greca, simbolo dell’opposizione a qualunque regime liberticida. (Puoi leggere le sue poesie qui.) Dopo la pubblicazione di Un Uomo, Oriana riesce a creare un incantamento globale: vorrebbero essere come lei i tanti giovani e molte donne, per le quali la scrittrice rappresenta la realizzazione di un sogno.

In quegli anni Fallaci accetta i sempre più frequenti inviti a incontrare i suoi lettori stranieri, nelle città e nelle università del mondo. Questo libro raccoglie alcune delle sue conferenze di maggior rilievo, pagine rimaste finora inedite che rivelano il suo rapporto con la scrittura, la sua passione per la politica e per l’impegno civile, la sua “ossessione per la libertà”.

È il suo autoritratto più autentico, una sorta di manifesto in cui Oriana rivendica e difende con vigore il diritto a “stare dalla parte dell’umanità, suggerire i cambiamenti, innamorarci dei buoni cambiamenti, influenzare un futuro che sia un futuro migliore del presente” (dalla sovracoperta del libro)

Ad Oriana Fallaci  è dedicato un sito web.

10 July 2012

Film review: Sand Pebbles (1966) by Robert Wise, ****

"The Sand Pebbles" tells many stories. It's the story of China, a slumbering giant that rouses itself to the cries of its people - and of the Americans who are caught in its blood awakening. It's the story of Frenchy (Richard Attenborough, passionate!), a crewman on the U.S.S. San Pablo who kidnaps his Chinese bride from the auction block. It's the story of Shirley (Candice Bergen, not her best performance here), a teacher and her first unforgettable taste of love. It's the story of Captain Collins (Richard Crenna), ready to defy anyone for his country's defense. Most of all, it's the story of Jake Holman (Steve McQueen, who does great, maybe his best ever!), a sailor who has given up trying to make peace with anything - including himself. McQueen gives what is probably the best performance of his career. It's not surprising that he, Mako and the movie were up for Oscars. Portraying a character with conflicting loyalties to friend and flag, McQueen expertly conveys the confusion that leads into his final line: "What the hell happened?" It's to his credit that we already know.

A movie made at the time the Vietnam was escalating and beginning to raise questions in America. The parallel is obvious: China in the 1920s was a divided country with foreign powers meddling in its internal affairs and supporting the opposing sides of the civil war. Japan had invaded, the USSR supported the Communists, the Western powers supported the Nationalists. Western powers did not invade but had a military presence on the coast and, as this film shows, inland as well.

It is an anti-colonial film too. It shows how China, while not strictly speaking colonized, had been in fact the object of foreign interference and prevarication for many decades. Yet the film also shows the brutality of the colonialists' victims, with Chinese killing Chinese, sometimes for very little reason.

The human dimension of the film reminds me of Vietnam too. Frenchy falls in love with a Chinese woman and wants to marry her amidst many difficulties, just as it happened for many GIs in Vietnam.

The Blu-ray edition also contains interesting extra features, like an interview with the director and cut scenes, as well as a "the making of" featurette. This was before any CGI of course, so it is interesting to see how special effects were done in those days.

08 June 2012

Book review: The Girl in the Picture, by Denise Chong, ****

Kim Phuc and others after napalm bombing of Trang Bang. Photo by Nick Ut, AP

Kim Phuc
Today it is forty years since one of the most famous photographs of the Vietnam war was taken, by photographer Nick Ut of the Associated Press.


Kim Phuc was nine years old on 8 June 1972. Severely burned by napalm, she ran from her burning village and was captured on film. Denise Chong relates Kim's experience and recovery in this astonishing biography and history of America's shameful war. The photograph of Kim, seen around the world, was one of many to turn public opinion against the war in Vietnam. This is the story of how the picture came to be and also what happened to Kim after it was taken. It provides an insight into the country Vietnam became after the US army left, and explains why Kim finally had to flee to Canada, where she now lives.

You can also visit the site of the Kim Foundation.

30 May 2012

Film Review: M.A.S.H. (1970), by Robert Altman, *****


While set in the Korean War of 1950-1953, the movie clearly addresses the question of the Vietnam war, which at the time of production was an open wound in American society. A Mobile Army Surgical Hospital (MASH) is the stage for a number of witty draftees to rebel and ridicule their strict superiors. Some are young docs just out of medical school, some are city girls who have to elbow their way in a clearly male dominated Army. Altman's black humor may seem a little dated forty years later, but it is still sharp. An iconic film of American countercolture that gave birth to an immensely successful TV series. Only one actor however, Gary Burghoff interpreting Radar, made it to the TV cast.

10 March 2012

Film review: Taxi Driver (1976) by Martin Scorsese, *****


Paul Schrader's gritty screenplay depicts the ever-deepening alienation of Vietnam Veteran Travis Bickle (Robert De Niro in a tour-de-force performance), a psychotic cab driver who obsessively cruises the mean streets of Manhattan.

This edition has the following extras:
Introduction to DVD - Martin Scorsese - this was recorded in 2006 and lasts about 15 minutes during which Scorsese talks about the influences that created Taxi Driver (Jean Luc Goddard etc).

Introduction to DVD - Paul Schrader
Commentary - Paul Schrader
Commentary Robert Kolker (Author)
Loneliness and Inspiration - Documentary
Cabbie Confessional - Documentary
Producing a Cult Classic
Taxi Driver Locations - Then and Now
Animated Photo Gallery
Storyboard to Film Comparisons
Behind the Scenes Documentary
Theatrical Trailer


A monumental film about human nature, about the aftermath of the Vietnam war, about New York in the seventies. These are the several layers of reading this film lends itself to and they are all worth the viewer's time. For this reason this is a film that must be seen several times to get all it has to offer. It can not be metabolized in one viewing. One of the best films of the seventies.

The BD version is very good, and quite a few extras complete an excellent deal.

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.

08 May 2004

Book Review: "Sideshow: Nixon, Kissinger and the Destruction of Cambodia", by W. Shawcross, ****

Although there are many books and films dealing with the Vietnam War, Sideshow tells the truth about America's secret and illegal war with Cambodia from 1969 to 1973. William Shawcross interviewed hundreds of people of all nationalities, including cabinet ministers, military men, and civil servants, and extensively researched U.S. Government documents. This full-scale investigation—with material new to this edition—exposes how Kissinger and Nixon treated Cambodia as a sideshow. Although the president and his assistant claimed that a secret bombing campaign in Cambodia was necessary to eliminate North Vietnamese soldiers who were attacking American troops across the border, Shawcross maintains that the bombings only spread the conflict, but led to the rise of the Khmer Rouge and the subsequent massacre of a third of Cambodia's population.

18 July 2002

Book Review: River's Tale, A year on the Mekong, by Edward A. Gargan, *****


From windswept plateaus to the South China Sea, the Mekong flows for three thousand miles, snaking its way through Southeast Asia. Long fascinated with this part of the world, former New York Times correspondent Edward Gargan embarked on an ambitious exploration of the Mekong and those living within its watershed. The River’s Tale is a rare and profound book that delivers more than a correspondent’s account of a place. It is a seminal examination of the Mekong and its people, a testament to the their struggles, their defeats and their victories.

15 July 2002

Book Review: River of Time, by Jon Swain, *****


Between 1970 and 1975 Jon Swain, the English journalist portrayed in David Puttnam's film, "The Killing Fields", lived in the lands of the Mekong river. This is his account of those years, and the way in which the tumultuous events affected his perceptions of life and death as Europe never could. He also describes the beauty of the Mekong landscape - the villages along its banks, surrounded by mangoes, bananas and coconuts, and the exquisite women, the odours of opium, and the region's other face - that of violence and corruption.

He was in Phnom Penh just before the fall of the city to the Khmer Rouge in April 1975. He was captured and was going to be executed. His life was saved by Dith Pran, the New York Times interpreter, a story told by the film The Killing Fields. In Indo-China Swain formed a passionate love affair with a French-Vietnamese girl. The demands of a war correspondent ran roughshod over his personal life and the relationship ended.

04 June 1980

Minsk to Smolensk, Afghanistan, Bulgarian wine and the Olympics

After a leisurely breakfast we get moving at 11:00 o'clock. We drive around downtown Minsk, and find it rather forgettable. The high points of the tour are a couple of huge monuments to Lenin and to victory in WW II. Good weather tough, warm and sunny.

One policeman stops me because I am trying to make a right turn from the middle lane of a wide boulevard. I did signal my intention to turn (I think I did) but anyway I was very careful and waited for the road to be clear before turning. He is initially a bit brusque but we start speaking Polish and it all ends with big smiles and a pat in the back. Again, I think he was just curious to meet funny-looking foreigners in a yellow beetle...

We hit the road again in the direction of Smolensk after a quick lunch, and it start raining heavily.

Once in Smolensk we are very warmly greeted by a group of students who run the camping site where we will spend the night. Banter and casual talk accompanied by Bulgarian wine drag on for several hours.

Only a couple of times the discussion is a bit tense, when we touch Afghanistan (they insist Soviet forces are providing brotherly help to socialists threatened by imperialism, pure party line) and the Olympics, (they insist sport and politics should be kept separate, and here they have a point).

They also believe that China (Moscow's Communist rival) got a bloody nose in Vietnam (Russia's Communist friend) last year when it launched its "punitive" campaign following the Vietnamese invasion of Cambodia. Here the truth is somewhat more blurred, and lots of people on both sides died for no reason when the Chinese pulled back.

The point I take away from this conversation is that the young people we have met actually still believe in Communism and in the leading role of the USSR, in one way or another. Not ONE Pole we met does.