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The Scent of Green Papaya



The Scent of Green Papaya


4 of 5 stars Vietnamese Cinderella February 9, 2003

I'm always on the lookout for Cinderella type stories. In this story we definitely have a servant and two "naughty" step-type brothers instead of sisters. The two boys in this movie don't quite know what to make of their new servant. They almost tend to treat her like a sister in some ways while otherwise completely ignoring her and never really speaking to her. One would imagine that children at that age would look beyond the servant/master issues and actually converse as friends.

The "stepmother" could be her employer, however Mui is never treated unkindly by her because she reminds her Mistress (Thi Loc Troung) of the daughter who died many years before and would have been the same age. When the family can no longer afford to employ her, she goes to live with a wealthy young pianist.

This movie excels in artistic expression and the silent interpretation of dreams and wishes. There is a minimum of dialogue and the most casual observances become almost a cherished encounter with nature. Mui watches little frogs, crickets and ants with a sense of awe while her employer's sons would be happy to kill any insect they found.

If you love cooking, you will probably love this movie. You can even get a quick lesson in how to stir-fry. Cooking is done on the floor over coals and Mui takes on the role of chef and housecleaner. There is an emphasis on the rituals of life. The simple is made beautiful. Every natural sound seems amplified. This is not only visually appealing; the sounds of rice being poured into a huge urn or the sizzle of oil in a wok are all spectacularly recorded.

Mui is told she will get to see her mother but we never see this occur. In fact, everything in the story takes place in the house or in the surrounding village.

Astonishingly beautiful and I can't believe this was shot entirely in Paris. Although, the ending does have a rather Amelie feel to it. You'll see.

The plot is really simple, but this doesn't seem to detract from the sheer visual enjoyment.

~The Rebecca Review 


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