Sunday, September 27, 2009

Un barrage contre le Pacifique (The Sea Wall)

Those who have already read L'amant (The Lover) knows why it's extremely hard to adapt a novel of French novelist Marguerite Duras into a film. Yours truly hasn't seen the film The Lover. However, as for this film, all I can tell you is that it bores you to death because of its slow pace and its badly written dialogues. All in all, the excellent cinematography can't help the film.


In the French Indochina (Cambodia, Vietnam and Laos) of the 1930s, a widow (Isabelle Hupert) invested her savings in a rice field in Cambodia. However, she feels that she's got ripped off by the colonial authorities. In fact, she has difficulty to pay back the mortgage on her land and it's always flooded by typhoons of the South China Sea. This is why the widow plans to build a dam to make profits. However, as she tries to improve her situation, the widow knows that her son, Joseph (Gaspard Ulliel), and her daughter, Suzanne (Astrid Bergès-Frisbey), will leave her sooner or later.

Obviously, Un barrage contre le Pacifique uses a lot its cinematography to seduce us. In fact, such an evidence leaps to our eyes through the magnificent framing of Cambodia's beautiful landscapes which are nonetheless a source of frustration for the three leading characters. Moreover, director Rithy Panh's visual intelligence can evidently be seen in his ability to capture the humiliation endured by some Cambodians during the French colonization without demagoguery.

Despite that, the film's cinematography doesn't save the whole story. As a matter of fact, many will feel that the cast, which is led by Isabelle Huppert, doesn't have a great margin of manoeuvre to express their character's true depth. For example, the love story between Suzanne and the Chinese business man seems contrived because the dialogues look like they were written for a soap opera (ex: "You're so beautiful" or "I don't know what to say when I'm with you").

Finally, I'm not going to waste any more of my time expressing my opinion regarding this film. Hopefully, Isabelle Huppert does a good job in leading the cast. Although her performance might look wooden, her feelings express quite well the loss of hope that the widow has when it comes to analyzing the economic performance of her rice field.

Rating: 2.5/5


Origin:France/Cambodia/Belgium (2009)
Length:115 minutes
Genre:Drama
Screenplay:Michel Fessler
Director:Rithy Panh
Starring:Isabelle Hupert, Gaspard Ulliel, Astrid Bergès-Frisbey and Randal Douc


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