Indochine centers on the life of Eliane (Catherine Deneuve), a wealthy rubber
plantation owner who adopts the young Annamese beauty Camille (Linh Dan Pham) when her
parents are accidentally killed. Eliane embodies the French attitude toward Indochina -
she is in love with its beauty, and views its people with a mixture of arrogant
condescension and maternal affection. She is the kind of woman who is perfectly capable of
nurturing a small child one minute and callously beating an old man who works on her
plantation the next. Like most of the French in Indochina in the 1930s, she is only dimly
aware of rising nationalist sentiment in the countryside. Rumors of open revolt reach her
ears, but she is too wrapped up in running her plantation and educating the lissome Camille to
show any real concern. Besides, she is convinced in her heart and mind that France and
Indochina are inseparable.
Eliane's carefully constructed world begins to come apart when she embarks upon a
passionate affair with a handsome but callow young French naval officer named
Jean-Baptiste (Vincent Perez). Despite her professed cynicism about love, Eliane
soon finds herself hopelessly dependent on the dashing officer. The wheels of tragedy are
set in motion when Jean-Baptiste rescues Camille during a street uprising and the young
woman falls in love with him.
Critic John Berardinelli:
"Indochine is, at its heart, a love story. Despite all the political turmoil
that functions as the film's backdrop, the central element of the movie is the tale of how
Camille and Jean-Baptiste meet, fall in love, and confront an uncertain future. The scenes
focusing on the relationship between these two are electric...Vincent Perez's
Jean-Baptiste is better rounded on the written page than his lover, and the actor's
passionate performance amplifies what the screenplay envisioned."
"Wargnier and cinematographer Francois Catonne have created breathtaking, indelible
images - a flotilla of illuminated sampans floating in the sea at dusk, the warmly lit
interiors of ornate, yet delicate Mandarin palaces, plantation workers heading out in the
early-morning mist with makeshift hat-torches lighting their way... Aided by
from the three leads, this seemingly cliched story line feels fresh and captivating."
"Haunting and exotic...Deneuve plays Eliane as elegant, independent and sturdy; she
is a woman determined not to show vulnerability while everything around her collapses.
Pham as the princess and Perez as the sailor are a touching and
heartbreaking Romeo and Juliet, whose political naivete puts them in harm's way."
and impatient as a noble race horse, Vincent Perez has been able to
transmit his internal struggle, his profound contradictions, his intimate changes. He
gives a good intensity to all these aspects of his personality, an enormous authenticity
and frankness, as in the wonderful shot of his meeting with Deneuve at the auction
The Chronicle, Duke University:
"There is real passion in the scenes between Deneuve and Perez and
later in his scenes with Pham. The scene in which he rescues the young woman from an
accident and then tends to her as she regains consciousness surely must count as one of
the most sensual scenes of any film this year."
Critic Frank Maloney:
"Wargnier is blessed with one of the world's greatest woman stars, Catherine
Deneuve... She is ideal for the part of Eliane - mature, sensuous, in control,
strong,and deeply loving, deeply sad... Linh Dan Pham is a marvelous actor and an
amazingly beautiful woman, the ideal co-star for Deneuve. The third leading actor in
Indochine is Vincent Perez, the French naval officer whose own
odyssey is fully as strange and unexpected as either of the women. Perez is a fine actor
and his scenes with Linh Dan Pham are full of powerful emotions finely shaded."
The French contribution to the Vietnam film archive certainly dispels any illusions
regarding their part in the country's troubled history. Perez insists
that the discussion has been a form of national group therapy, in much the same way that our
Vietnam movies have helped us come to terms with a tragedy that scarred a generation.
Cox Interactive Media:
"Director Regis Wargnier uses Catherine Deneuve's face as a primary element in many
of his impeccable wide-screen compositions, but he also gives the other players many
chances to shine. As Jean-Baptiste, Vincent Perez is a little overheated, but it suits both
his character and the film, and Linh Dan Pham makes an impressive debut as Camille."
The News & Observer:
"Indochine is sweeping, nearly epic.The work of Linh Dan Pham as Camille and
Vincent Perez as Jean-Baptiste is as notable as Deneuve's."
"Jean-Baptiste, whose history as an angry son of a profligate father is only
sketched, comes across as a rigid, driven military man as played by the striking,
sharp-featured Vincent Perez."
"This is an experience that
some of our grandparents are old enough to have lived through. The movies have given the
French a wonderful opportunity to talk about Indochina and what it meant to them."
"This famous Ha Long Bay is linked in my mind to the magical memory
of the first day of shooting. We had to walk for a kilometer in the rice-fields
for the shot where Linh Dan (the young vietnamese actress playing the adopted daughter of
Catherine Deneuve) and I were going offshore under a
hot sun. We walked this distance dressed in our costumes, hand in hand, without speaking.
Then we layed down in this fragile boat while the technicians stayed on another boat a
distance from us. I was alone driving the sampan, Linh Dan sleeping close to me. I could
see the boat with the camera far away, tiny. I was alone. I wanted to shout from happiness
and I should have done it. It was wonderful like living in a legend."
Catherine Deneuve......Eliane Devries
Vincent Perez.....Jean-Baptiste Le Guen
Linh Dan Pham.....Camille
Jean Yanne.....Guy Asselin
Directed by.....Regis Wargnier
Orsenna, Louis Gardel, Catherine Cohen and Regis
Cinematography by.....Francois Catonne
Music by.....Patrick Doyle
Oscar for Best Foreign Film in 1993 plus Catherine Deneuve
was nominated for Best Actress. Cesar for Best Cinematography, Sound, Production
Design, Best Actress (Catherine Deneuve) and Best Supporting Actress (Dominique Blanc).
Film locations: Lucerne,
Switzerland, Malaysia, Vietnam and Paris, France.
Premiered in France: April 15,
DVD release: March 7, 2000