The Scent of Green Papaya | Chicago Reader

The Scent of Green Papaya

A beautiful first feature (1993) by Vietnamese filmmaker Tran Anh Hung, shot on a French soundstage and set in two bourgeois Saigon households in 1951 and '61. The central character, inspired by Tran's mother, is a servant girl, played as a ten-year-old by Lu Man San and as a young woman by Tran's wife, Tran Nu Yen-khe, and the main focus is on everyday household chores and sensual discoveries, all made mesmerizing by elaborately choreographed camera movements that link interiors and exteriors in the same fluid itineraries. The first household contains an unhappy family, the second a wealthy Europeanized composer, and, perhaps significantly, only the first seems to have much connection with the surrounding neighborhood. The Vietnam war is dealt with so elliptically that it figures only as offscreen sirens and overhead planes. This stylish period piece won the Camera d'Or at the 1993 Cannes film festival and was nominated for an Oscar. In Vietnamese with subtitles. 103 min.

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