Thursday, 8 March 2012

The Lady

Michelle Yeoh plays Burma's rightful leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

 The Robert Burns Centre Film Theatre’s Film Club movie this week was something rather special, other than perhaps Steve McQueen’s Shame (2011) is the best film of this season and one I would encourage everybody to make an effort to see. I can assure you that anyone with any inkling of feeling will truly love The Lady (2011).

As you are probably aware it’s the story of Aung San Suu Kyi (pronounced Aung San Soo She) the very brave and charismatic Burmese dissident and non-violent supporter of democracy. She is the daughter of Aung San who founded the modern Burmese army and negotiated Burma’s independence from the United Kingdom in 1947, but was assassinated six months prior to its implementation. Suu Kyi became opposition leader and General Secretary of her National League for Democracy, which she founded in 1988. The film is a very moving love story about her relationship with her husband the Cuban born academic Michael Aris and her two sons Alexander and Kim set against Burma’s political turmoil.
The Lady poster.

The evening started with our host Alec Barclay explaining to a very large audience about the director’s departure from his normal body of work. French filmmaker Luc Besson usually works in fiction but in The Lady he directed and wrote a piece of work based not only on a true story but also on someone that is still politically active, so it was going to be interesting to see how he handled the life of this remarkable women.

Alec went on to explain that Besson has been involved in 62 films in various capacities as: director, writer and producer. He has even been credited as a camera operator in Asterix and Obelix: Mission Cleopatra 2001! His greatest successes were from his earlier work with: The Big Blue (1988), Nikita (1990), Léon (1994), and The Fifth Element (1997), (my own personnel favourite is 2005’s Angel-A) his oeuvre is mainly thrillers with larger than life characters and a certain off-the wall humour, which one would expect to find in the graphic comic books, which Besson read in his teens. He works equally well in French and English languages, and his films tend to receive popular but not critical success.

Alec described Besson as a flawed genius with a very economic and skilful way of introducing his characters to an audience, and admitted that he quickly found himself drawn into the stories. Stories where the bad guys will often wear black clothes and dark glasses, and the good guys sometimes wear dresses! In our host’s opinion if you are too critical of his work you will never enjoy it. Advising the viewer it was probably best to suspend your disbelief and just go with story and not worry too much about a few minor plot holes.
Michael Aris ( David Thewlis) and Suu Kyi.

Summing up the introduction Alec tried to think of words to describe the Frenchman’s films: obvious, corny, clichéd, loud, pacey, emotional, violent, stylish, humorous, detailed, extraordinary, tender, over-the-top, escapist, entertaining, silly, unusual, tense, ridiculous, plagiarist, engaging… but never boring (sounds like Ken Russell!!). We then had the privilege of watching this marvellous movie. 

The stubbornness of Aung San Suu Kyi was convincingly depicted by the star of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000) and Memoirs of a Geisha (2005) the Malaysian born Michelle Yeou. The very experienced actor David Thewlis played Michael Aris and his twin brother Anthony. Both actors portraying the torment of lovers torn apart by events far beyond their control. The final section of the film where Aris is obviously dying and stopped from seeing his wife was particularly poignant. The emotional distress involved was really brought home at this point. A very gripping and effective story shown through the eyes of a loving family and a wake up call to those who are not conversant with Burma’s traumatic political background. Besson did not let himself, or us, down.

Not just a love story!!!!!

Thought that this article about the pirate copies of the film on the streets of Rangoon may be of interest Guardian article Feb 2nd 2012.The Lady 2011

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