INDOCHINE, France's official entry for Academy Award consideration for Best Foreign Film of 1992, is a lengthy, sweeping portrait (more like a mural) of several family members caught in the turmoil of the end of French colonial life in Viet Nam. Photography and imagery are ravishing, but the story line is convoluted and over-wrought, teeming with "Can you top this?" plot turns and slanted decidedly in favor of the communist revolutionaries who eventually took over in 1954. A collection of stills would make a wonderful photo album.
The French film INDOCHINE is narrated in flashback by Elaine (Catherine Deneuve) as she tries to explain some complicated situations of the past to her adult grandson. She tells about the final years of France’s colonial rule in Indochina; about when she managed a rubber plantation near Saigon; and, about her love affair with Jean-Baptiste, a French naval officer. Her daughter, Camille, also falls in love with Jean-Baptiste and has a child by him.
INDOCHINE’s plot is extremely convoluted and hard-to-follow. For example, before all is said and done in INDOCHINE’s densely plotted 160 minutes, Camille guns down a sadistic French official, narrowly escapes death by dehydration, joins a traveling acting troupe, bears Jean-Baptiste’s baby, endures imprisonment and becomes a national legend–the Joan of Arc of the communist insurgents. The movie’s greatest asset is its sensational imagery, including some amazing scenes of plantation workers laboring at dawn’s first light, ragged ships navigating mysterious waterways and traveling performers entertaining local villagers. Needless to say, the French (except for the romantic leads) are portrayed as brutal, repressive prigs, while the communist movement surges with inspirational and righteous fervor. Overall, the turbo-charged operatics and political propaganda make this an unworthy candidate for Best Foreign Film.
(L, N, S, VV, A/D, RH, H) 6 obscenities and 3 profanities; very brief upper female nudity; sexual immorality implied; multiple shootings, mostly viewed after the fact; brief scene of brutal interrogation; repeated opium use by one character; and, positive view of communist movement in opposition to French colonists.