Thursday, June 07, 2007

Movie - Three Seasons (vietnamese film)

We went to a professor's house last night to catch a Vietnamese movie entitled 'Three Seasons.' Filmed almost completely in Vietnamese, we followed the film mainly by reading the English subtitles in the film. It is the first American made movie after the US lifted its embargo on Vietnam in Feb 1994.

There is a double-play on the word 'seasons', one in terms of the weather and the other in terms of the different phases of human lives. All of them are interwoven in three simple snapshots of life in Vietnam, at a time where old meets new, where traditional lifestyles comes face to face with modernity.

Story #1 - Girls harvesting lotuses
The movie begins with a group of girls on boats collecting white lotuses (symbol of purity), singing folk songs during harvesting. They will then sell their lotuses to tourists and locals to make a living. The main characters in this story are Kien An and Teacher Dao. Kien An causes a commotion when she sang a different song one day from the rest, as if she was from another village. This arouses Teacher Dao's interest who later enlists her to help him write poetry, his poetry. Teacher Dao had earlier lost his fingers to leprosy, but his mind remains vivid and active in painting life through poetry. Kien An, out of a generous attitude offers the use of her fingers to enable Teacher Dao to put his beautiful thoughts in writing. After Teacher Dao's death, Kien An does a beautiful thing. She helps to fulfill Teacher Dao's last wish to visit on his behalf the river markets and to release white lotuses on the river there. It is a beautiful act of fulfilling another person's wish, unselfishly, and willingly without ever being asked directly.

Story #2 - Boy selling box of watches (always rainy scenes)
This second story revolves around a 8-9 years old boy, who is a street peddlar, always carrying round his neck a briefcase containing watches, chewing gum, cigarettes etc. It is interesting that every scene that he appears in, it rains and he is always wearing a cheap looking raincoat. It seems like the director telling the audience that young children in Vietnam are often inundated by the rains of a struggling poor society. Through some unfortunate event, his briefcase got stolen and for the rest of the time, he tries to recover it. When there seems to be no hope, he finds a young friend, who shares willingly her food and her time. His recovery of the briefcase was also strange. The story seems to point to a Vietnamese society that does not allow children to be children, having to learn to make a living at a very young age. It contrasts sharply to rich families in the West, where play and basic living needs are often taken for granted. When the little girl shares her food with Woody, it reminds me of the unconditional sharing of one's possessions.

Story #3 - Rickshaw man showing unconditional love to a prostitute (rain or shine)
This is the most touching story of all. Hai, a rickshaw driver fell in love with a prostitute named Lan (picture on front cover). Through patience and determination he diligently fetches Lan from her workplace to her home on a daily basis, even though it meant a few hours of wait each time. Though specifically told that he does not have to, Hai persists. The more Hai shows his love and care, the more Lan resists as she could not comprehend how anyone could do something for her without getting anything in return. Hai soon learns that Lan charges $50 per night for her clients, and upon winning a rickshaw race, earning $50, Hai offers to pay Lan so that he can spend the time with her. Hai's motive is purely unselfish. Hai had set out to fulfill the dreams and wishes of Lan. Firstly, she desires to be able to sleep comfortably in an airconditioned room and secondly to live like a dignified woman. Hai gave her all of that without expecting anything in return. Filled with unworthiness, Lan returned the US$50 as she claimed that Hai did not have sex with her. Through sheer unconditional love, Hai won Lan's heart, gave her the dignity of a woman, and showed her that true love is unselfish and free. Freely give and freely receive. Such a relationship is so liberating. The final scene is the picture on the front cover, where Lan sees beautiful red blossoms where she dances with joy.

It is a beautiful movie that won at least 7 movie awards (1999-2000), and received a standing ovation at the 1999 Sundance film festival.

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