From the novel of the same namewhich has sold over one million copies in 43 languagesthis "sophisticated adaptation of Marguerite Duras' best-selling memoirs" (Variety) smolders on the screen. "Masterfully acted and beauti... more »fully photographed" (Critics' Choice), The Lover brilliantly captures the essence of sexual awakening and forbidden desire like no other film has donebeforeor since. Jane March is mesmerizing in the role of a poor French teenager who engages in an illicit affair with a wealthy Chinese heir (Tony Leung) in 1920s Saigon. For the first time in her young life she has control, and she wields it deftly over her besotted lover throughout a series of clandestine meetings and torrid encounters. But though the lovers are able to transcend their differences in age, race and class'theirs is a future that French colonial Vietnamese society will never allow.« less
Marianna S. (Angeloudi) from HOLIDAY, FL Reviewed on 1/22/2008...
I purchase French DVDs to show in my high school French classes. This one is absolutely not suitable for high school due to its graphic scenes of sexuality and nudity. I thought this would be similar to Indochine, starring Catherine Deneuve, also set in French Indochina, now Vietnam. From the main character's dysfunctional and sadistic family, to her maniupulation of the older Chinese lover, I found this movie fascinating in a perverse sort of way- I wanted to find out what would happen, yet I was repulsed by the storyline.
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A sensuous, erotic and touching love story
JLind555 | 01/08/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
""The Lover" is a gorgeously sensuous and erotic film about a young girl's awakening to love and her own sexuality. Whover categorized this movie as soft porn needs to wash his or her mind out with Lysol. It is, quite simply, a love story.
Jane March plays "the young girl", a French adolescent in colonial Vietnam living with her widowed mother and two brothers. Her mother barely makes ends meet by teaching, her younger brother, with whom she has a relationship both protective and erotic, is weak and passive, and her older brother is brutally antisocial, stealing the family's few funds to support his opium habit and bullying his younger siblings through violence.
The girl attends a lycée in Saigon where she and her friend are the only Caucasian pupils. On a trip from her home back to school she meets "the Chinaman" played by Tony Leung, and their encounter sets off sparks. Leung is the son of a rich overseas Chinese, engaged to marry the Chinese girl picked out by his father, who spends his own days in an opium haze; his feelings for the young girl are at first purely sexual but ripen into a love so deep it confuses and frightens him.
It's a love that is doomed from the start. His father will not hear of him marrying a non-Chinese, and her family, although the equivalent of white trash, still considers themselves better than the Asians they live among. When the word of her affair with the Chinaman gets out, she becomes an outcast among her schoolmates. The young girl tries to cope with the social and emotional conflicts by convincing herself and telling him that she doesn't love him; he knows she's kidding herself and so do we, and toward the movie's end, when she has lost him forever through his marriage to the woman chosen for him by his father and her own repatriation to France, she can't hide from herself the fact that she is deeply in love with him.
Jane March is incredible in the role of the young girl; she brings out all her character's innocence, sexuality and adolescent confusion. Tony Leung is just right as the pampered son of a rich family who is hamstrung by the mores and traditions of his family and society; and Frederique Meininger is especially effective as the mother, who dotes on her worthless older son (the more venal she knows he is, the more she dotes on him, helpless to deal with the reality of what he is, and worse, what he will become), and condemns her daughter's relationship with a Chinese on the one hand while she has no problem taking her daughter's lover's money on the other. The cinematography is beautiful and conveys all the heat and languor of colonial Vietnam.
This is no film for children; the sex scenes are as explicit as can be shown in any film not rated X. At the film's end (Jeanne Moreau does an excellent voice-over throughout the movie), when the Chinaman after decades of silence telephones the girl who is now a middle-aged woman and tells her he has never forgotten her and will love her until death, we realize how strong was the love between these two. It's a beautiful film of two people who were just right, even while they were all wrong, for each other.
Beautiful, evocative, erotic
Peggy Vincent | Oakland, CA | 12/02/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Wow, wow, wow...memories of this movie have stayed with me for years. I even recently bought the book on eBay to read the supposedly autobiographical material from which the movie was made. It's gorgeously filmed and directed by Jean-Jacques Annaud, as well, which doesn't hurt with a piece as erotic as this one. It's the tale of a young schoolgirl and her affair with an older Asian man in Indochina in the 20s. He becomes infatuated with her but because of issues of class can never hope to marry her, a situation which seems to be exactly to her liking. She appears to be involved strictly for the physical pleasure.
Terrific and soooo memorable. Some call this movie soft porn; well, if that's so, then I'm all for it!"
Of boundaries and borders
Tintin | Winchester, MA USA | 07/20/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Before being a cinematographic success The Lover (fr. l'Amant) is a masterpiece of literature, an autobiographical novel written by Marguerite Duras in 1984, in which the author reveals her torrid adolescent relationship with an older and affluent Chinese man in the Saigon of the 1930s. Very few adaptations of novels to the screen have ever been rendered so faithfully. Annaud is known for the meticulousness with which he approaches the details of his films, including the historical ones, and The Lover is no exception
The story is an interior monologue so laconically written that the film's characters aren't even named. Jane Marsh, la jeune fille ("the girl"), acting is effortless and natural, portraying perfectly the ferocious individuality of the adolescent girl. Her resemblance to young Duras is uncanny. Tony Leung Ka Fai, the "Chinaman," is convincing in the role of the vulnerable aristocratic.
The soundtrack, by Gabriel Yared, follows the action well, complementing the scenes, without overwhelming them. The theme, "l'Amant," is equally poetic and lyrical as the text. The dialogue is the manifestation of Duras's writing, and the voice-over sequences are taken verbatim from the novel. The genius of Annaud is again apparent in his choice of Jeanne Moreau for the narrator's part. Moreau's world-weary, destroyed voice could not have been better for conveying the tone of Duras's lyrical writing.
I was rather disappointed while reading more than a dozen American reviews of this film penned by professional film critics. Only one reviewer seemed to be knowledgeable about the author and the position she occupies in world literature. Even one of the most respected film critics, Roger Ebert, seems to have missed the point of the film altogether, and dismissed it lightly. The majority of the film critics concentrated somewhat obsessively on the sexual scenes (which I must admit are rather explicit), to the exclusion of the other themes, and pronounced it soft-core pornography. Since the running time of the film is 111 minutes, and only eight percent of it (a total of nine minutes) shows the two protagonists in explicitly sexual situations, including four and one half of actual lovemaking, I personally think the film hardly qualifies as soft-porn. In my opinion, these movie reviews are the result of the genetic, generic puritan attitude that prevails in the American society. Or maybe the reviewers were asleep during most of the film and only woke up for the "good parts?" So, let's put to bed (no pun intended) the question that this film is somehow pornographic
The Lover is a powerful emotional text, probing deep into the past of the narrator and into France's own colonial past. It explores the intimate relationship between a young, poor white schoolgirl and her rich Chinese lover in the setting of the colonial society of the late 1920s Saigon. It uncovers transgression, desire, separation, and death, the ecstatic and dangerous appeal of the mysterious "other."
The other, arguably as important, theme of the film is relationships -- with her school friend, Helene Lagonelle, the ambivalent tie between the girl and her mother, and the girl's disturbing relationships with her two brothers
Finally, there is an undercurrent theme which runs throughout the film, which is that of boundaries and borders. The film opens with a ferry ride across the Mekong and ends with an ocean crossing, signaling the constant crossing of frontiers and borders: geographic of course, but also racial, cultural, and sexual. These are confronted and sometimes dissolved as the poor white girl of French parentage meets her wealthy Chinese lover in the Cholon, the ill-repute Chinese district of Saigon. She, a white girl, was raised among natives, almost as a native. He is a native who experienced the western culture and somehow longs for it.
There is also the transitory period of the girl's adolescence, between what remains of her childhood, and the onset of her womanhood. On the ferry and on the steam liner, the girl wears a child's pigtails, but she is dressed in women's clothes. The gender roles are somewhat blurred, too: she wears a woman's dress, but also a man's hat, in a color that signifies femininity. The boarding school in Saigon is home mainly to the abandoned mixed-blood daughters of local women and French fathers. The girl has an intimate friendship with Helene Lagonelle, which is ambivalent and perhaps sexually charged. The girl is unable to treat the Chinaman with even a modicum of courtesy when she is with her brothers because he is Chinese, not white. In the public bus, she rides in front, separated from the locals, yet in her private home, she lived as a native. In the cocoon of the garconniere, she is separated from the crowd on the street by only thin cotton blinds. There is even a meta-boundary crossed, as Duras takes her memories and feelings and externalizes them in the form of her writing. What has been internal and private becomes external and public.
The Lover is an autobiographical love story set in a post-colonial environment. We owe the remarkable transcription of this literary masterpiece to the artistry and creativity of Jean-Jacques Annaud. In this production, he has successfully combined two art forms, the beauty of the written word with the fascination of the image. I believe that the film has been, for the most part, misunderstood in this country, and I would recommend a second, more open-minded look at it. It will be a worthwhile experience. "
L'Amant is breathtaking
azpoolbum | Phoenix AZ | 01/16/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This is a review of the unrated DVD version of this film. It is so unusual that a cinemagraphic expression lives up to a great work of literature, but Jean-Jacques Annaud gives us the visual rendition of Marguerite Duras' prize winning novel. Annaud captures the poetry and passion of Duras' 1930's Indochina. It is simply a captivating movie to watch. I've seen this movie three times before, but always the Blockbuster "R" version. The sex scenes in the unrated DVD version of the film are simply breathtaking. Contrary to another viewer, below, I find that art and expression of the film is accomplished through the love scenes. After all, the story examines mystery, desire, and forbidden love. The lovers are different, they are more, they are exuberantly liberated when they are together. The love scenes provide the necessary counterpoint to the banality of their lives apart. Their vigorous sexuality underscores the paradox of the rich, and worldly Chinese man who offers himself up to humiliation and abuse from French colonial white-trash, all for the sake of a young girl. Their relationship is viseral and mysterious. Their lovemaking and common language mask yet personify their embodiment of the mutual identities as part of the French and Chinese as colonizers of Vietnam. L'Amant breaks new boundaries as an exploration of forbidden love, anticolonialism, and the suffering people endure because they resign themselves to living their own lies. L'Amant is a beautiful film, brilliantly acted, that says so much by saying so little. The film score by Gabriel Yared is also breathtaking. Cinema doesn't get any better than this. Hollywood is simply incapable of making a movie like this."
The Lover - A Passionate Love Story
Lori Sheppard | Toronto, ON Canada | 07/19/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"For those who think this movie is only carnal, I extend my deepest sympathies for your apparent ignorance. This is a romeo and juliet parallel not to be missed.This is one of, if not the best, love story ever written. It tells of a young woman, barely 17, whose life is already a tragedy. Her family was thrown from wealth and good standing, to poverty and squalor, scraping by to make ends meet in French occupied Vietnam. She is all but shakespearean in her suffering, without the guidance of a father, and the love of a weak and unscrupulous mother and drug addicted brother. There is much tenderness in the cannonization of the youngest brother, as a living saint, the one pure thing in her life. The lover, played by Tony Leung Kai Fai, is himself, a tragic hero. Educated in France, he longs to shirk the burden of his chinese culture, buck tradition and marry for love. He is consumed by the forced arranged marriage, and pursues the young Jane March with the guile of an experienced and wealthy man, but with the tenderness and respect of a true lover.The two make an arrangement to meet in his bachelor pad, which according to chinese tradition, is a "practice area" for marriage. Jane March's young virgin surrenders to passion and experience, while remaining emotionally detatched from her chinese lover, for he tells her that they can "never be married" as it is "not allowed", and he would be disowned and poverty stricken if he went against the wishes of his family. Seemingly, Jane March's character cares little for the potential of this toxic relationship, revelling only in the sexual experience and conversation that they share in their secret room, away from the rest of the world. He is her escape, as surreal as the life she escapes from.The scenes are intimate and touching, full of tenderness and imagery that conveys the worship like reverence with which they experience each other. He, worshiping her sexual innocence, while she worships his sexual experience. A powerful and erotic culmination. Truly as story continues, you believe each of the characters less and less, as they joke about how they would not fit in to each others world. They do a wonderful job trying to convince each other that the affair means nothing. It becomes less believable, as you see them fall deeper and deeper into love, and examples of arguments where they truly hurt each other, in the way that only two people in love can wound.A truly touching ending that had me in tears, as her ship pulls away from the harbour and he is there, in his car, watching her leave.Highly recommend this movie as a measure to restore your faith in the very real power and strength of love, even when there is no "story book" ending.(...)"