The Scent of Green Papaya (Mùi du du xanh) (1993)

Director: Tran Anh Hung
Stars: Tran Nu Yên-Khê, Man San Lu, Thi Loc Truong

This is a truly beautiful film. Not only to look at but because of the central character. Tran Anh Hung really did create a wonderful piece of cinema here. It is a French film, produced and made in France, with a Vietnamese director and cast. What is perhaps more marvelous is that the whole thing was filmed on a sound stage. This work of art was nominated for the best foreign language film of the year but ultimately lost out to Belle Epoque (which is inferior to this in my opinion).

The film is a snapshot really of the life of Mui at ten years of age (impressively played by Man San Lu) and then at twenty years of age (Tran Anh Hung’s wife Tran Nu Yên-Khê). The two actresses are simply brilliant in their portrayal, especially given the small amount of dialogue they are afforded. In fact, the whole film is very dialogue light. The rest of the cast are also fairly impressive, given that for most of them this was their first (and only in some cases) film.

The film starts in the early nineteen fifties as we see a ten year old Mui arriving at her new home. She is to be the new servant of the mistress of the house. Mui is full of wonder and curiosity regarding her surroundings, life and her new family. She marvels at the beauty of the world and everything within it. And this really is the crux of the film, seeing the beauty in the most simplistic of things that probably far too many of us leading different lives often miss on a daily basis.

The film is so beautifully shot and the cinematography is quite exquisite. Every shot is thoughtful and meaningful. Add to this the performance from the young Man San Lu and you have a visual feast for the eyes. Given how little dialogue is in this piece, then everything else has to be so much better to keep your attention, and it truly is. Tran Anh Hung captured a slice of life within a tropical Vietnam that is quite wonderful in both time periods. The sound editing is also equally brilliant.

Now this film is certainly not for everyone. There is very little dialogue, no action scenes, nothing really exciting happens. No real drama. But what it is, is a finely crafted story chronicling two time periods in a person’s life and how they react and deal with that said life. Hard to imagine it could be as riveting to watch as it truly is. A beautiful (and beautifully shot) film that will certainly stay with you long after the credits have rolled.

The Sage’s Rating:

Posted in Drama, Foreign Lang, Romance and tagged , , , .

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