The End Of An Era
♦Tripwire’s editor-in-chief JOEL MEADOWS reviews lavish French 20th century epic Indochine, now on restored Blu Ray from Studio Canal…
Director: Regis Wargnier
Stars: Catherine Deneuve, Vincent Perez, Lin Danh Pham, Jean Yanne
Indochine is a widescreen French historical drama which was first released back in 1992 and StudioCanal have restored it and released it on Blu Ray as a lavish 4K edition. Catherine Deneuve plays Eliane, a wealthy French woman living in Indochina who adopts a Vietnamese girl Camille (Lin Danh Pham). But the turmoil that the region is going through means that the pair are unable to remain unchanged by the history happening around them. Eliane takes up with a young French naval officer Jean-Baptiste (Perez) but he soon turns his attentions to Camille when her elderly father tries to buy him off.
There is an elegance and a sophistication to Indochine that many Hollywood films lack, helped by the beautiful settings and the exquisite Deneuve who, although she isn’t young here, is still magnetic on screen, turning in an exceptional performance. The rest of the cast are very strong too particularly Perez as the headstrong French naval officer and Pham as Eliane’s daughter, caught between two cultures. Director Wargnier brings the 1930s setting to life with rare style and panache and the beautiful restoration really adds a lushness to the story unfolding here, the story of the end of the French empire around the world which was taking place throughout much of the 20th century. We are used to stories of the British empire but here we see the French imperial culture clashing with the traditions of the Far East. The depiction of Vietnam and its landscapes and its cities are shot with an outsider’s perspective, which draws the viewer into the film from its first few frames.
It is rare for films like this to be made these days as they are expensive and huge logistical exercises but Indochine is a throwback to a previous kind of cinema, which is literary, understated and in the same sort of tradition as Doctor Zhivago and Lawrence of Arabia. Made in the French language, there is a majesty here that few modern films aspire to and aficionados of quality cinema should rush to add this to their shelves.