Sunday, March 4, 2012

The Lover

One cannot speak of "the plot" of the film in the usual sense, since it is the autobiographical story of Duras. As such, the story is driven by the remembrances of the events in her life, rather than a formally constructed story. The story illuminates one and one-half years in the life of the adolescent Duras (Jane March), as they are recalled by the seventy-year-old writer.
The film is also about life in South Vietnam, under French colonial rule. But it is also an example of this life turned upside down, as the girl is white and poor, while the man is Chinese and rich.

The film opens in the present day (circa 1980) with Jeanne Moreau's voice-over as the elderly Duras reading the opening paragraphs of the novel. This is immediately followed by a flashback to an afternoon in 1929, on the Mekong River shore. On that particular day, the fifteen and one-half year old girl was returning to Saigon, as was the twenty-eight-year-old rich "Chinaman" (Tony Leung Ka Fai). They arrive at the Mekong ferry crossing, she in a public bus, and he in his black Morris Leon-Bollet limousine. The girl wears an old sleeveless silk dress, gold-spangled high-heels, and a man's pink fedora decorated with a black ribbon. She wears her hair in pigtails and her lips are painted with a brilliant red lipstick: this is a striking resemblance to the photographs of the young Duras, who wanted to be a woman before her time. The young man, impeccably dressed in a white cotton suit, emerges from his limousine and approaches the girl.

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