The Scent of Green Papaya (1993)

The Scent of Green Papaya, Tran Anh Hung. Small, slow, quiet and in Vietnamese, I’ve shown this in my film classes and students fall asleep. They failed…to be moved by the beauty of this film, which is as exquisite as a puzzle box. The peaceful elegance of the domestic love story is shot through with an undercurrent of violence that somehow captures the texture and soul of Saigon even though it was filmed entirely on a sound stage in France. Given this controlled environment, the sound design is exceptional: listen carefully as the overhead planes (heard never seen) shift from prop to jet as the story unfolds over decades. This fine attention to detail exists on every level of the film. It lives up to the promise that cinema loudly offers but fiction more easily deliveries: vicarious experience. This isn’t entertainment, it’s subtle absorption.

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