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THREE SEASONS

SYNOPSIS:
Stories of people whose lives cross paths in modern Vietnam; Young Kien An (Ngoc Hiep) is hired to pick white lotus flowers for a reclusive master, Teacher Dao (Manh Cuong), who is inspired by one of Kien Ans folk songs to take up poetry again. But in the city, plastic flowers are now competing with the real ones. Cyclo driver Hai (Don Duong), falls for a proud young prostitute, Lan (Zoe Bui) who grudgingly lets him drive her around to the expensive hotels. Meanwhile the young Woody (Nguyen Huu Doc) trudges around the nightbeat with his little case of watches, lighters and other trinkets to sell. One prospective customer at the Apocalypse Now Bar is James Hager (Hartvey Keitel), but Woody never completes the sale. Hai enters the cyclo race to win enough money to spend a night with hera night that changes their lives.

"Three Seasons is a gentle yet deeply felt film from a filmmaker whose nostalgia for his native Vietnamese culture is the foundation for a story told not so much about an event or events, but about these characters that try to cope with the new way of living there in the 90s. This includes an American, James Hager (Keitel) who was a Marine during the war, on a pilgrimage to find his now young adult daughter and make peace with her. It's a deeply affecting sidestory (with a deeply saddening first encounter) in what is a foursided metaphor for Buis Vietnam today: the young girl, Kien An represents the old Vietnam, while Lan has had to reinvent herself to survive. Hai represents those who value the old but cope with the new, while Woody is the future, and James Hager the ashes of a war ravaged past. Superbly photographed and movingly performed, Three Seasons is a fascinating and satisfying film. Mourning the loss or dilution of a national ethos is always more emotionally wrenching for those whose loss it is, but Bui makes his film so tangible and we are so much swept into its emotional frame that it moves us strangers, too."
Andrew L. Urban

"Filming with state authorities on set scrutinising every word and action can't be easy but that's the only way it was possible for the first American film shot in Vietnam since the war to be made. The other key contributing factor is the presence of Harvey Keitel who acted as Executive Producer in addition to his on-screen role. It's ironic that the Keitel sub-plot is the least successful element of 26 year-old writer/director/producer Tony Bui's first feature. It plods along to nowhere in particular and the American heavyweight gives an alarmingly soporific performance. Fortunately the footing is stronger elsewhere; leading Vietnamese actor Don Duong is a standout as the cyclo (now an endangered species as motorcycles take over Vietnamese streets) whose obsession with Lan is a pointed metaphor for the divisions affecting a communist state attempting to embrace capitalism on its own terms. Bui, who left Vietnam for America at the age of 2, has serious flaws in the construction of his multi-charactered story and it suffers numerous dead spots but what rings true is his humanity and sincere contemplation of the past, present and possible future of a culture whose identity is being consumed by the neon signs and tourist hotels which accompany economic "progress". By conventional criteria this fails but its noble intentions make it a failure worth investigating."
Richard Kuipers

"Few films of recent memory are as rich or as profound as this extraordinary gem, the first American film to be shot in postwar Vietnam. On a purely cinematic level, Three Seasons is a movie awash with sumptuous imagery, from the opening sequence in which a group of flower girls are harvesting the beautiful lotus flowers, to the contrasting images that provide us with a detailed look at an increasingly Western Vietnam. It is a nation of contrasts, and these contrasts serve as a symbolic reminder of how that nation, once ravaged by war, has changed. Three Seasons is a film that appears deceptively simple, but writer/director Tony Bui has made a work that is highly symbolic and complex. The film's four stories, seemingly disconnected, symbolise various facets of the changing face of this beautiful country, and each story is one filled with a strange optimism. Yet it's a film that is sad, but not overly sentimental. Filled with memorable performances by an accomplished Vietnamese cast, Three Seasons is a magnificent looking film, and backed by an evocative score by Richard Horowitz. At the same time, Bui has created a group of intricate characters, deftly handled, whose stories make for compelling viewing. This is a memorable triumph, a beautifully realised masterwork from a filmmaker whose future is well and truly assured."
Paul Fischer

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CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 2
Unfavourable: 0
Mixed: 1

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TRAILER

See Nick Roddick's interview with
TONY BUI

See Paul Fischer's interview with
HARVEY KEITEL

SOFCOM MOVIE TIMES

THREE SEASONS (M)
(Vietnam/US)

CAST: Don Duong, Nguyen Ngoc Hiep, Tran Manh Cuong, Harvey Keitel, Zoe Bui, Nguyen Huu Duoc

DIRECTOR: Tony Bui

PRODUCERS: Jason Kliot, Joana Vicente, Tony Bui

SCRIPT: Tony Bui

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Lisa Rimzler

EDITOR: Keith Reamer

MUSIC: Richard Horowitz

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Wing Lee

RUNNING TIME: 109 minutes

Vietnamese with English subtitles

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Dendy

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: May 13, 1999

Grand Jury Prize Sundance 1999

Audience Award - Sundance 1999

Best Cinematography Sundance 1999

Nominee, Golden Bear, Berlin 1999

VIDEO RELEASE: October 13, 1999

VIDEO DISTRIBUTOR: Dendy







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