peteg's blog - noise - movies - 2011 04 10 BiDontBeAfraid

Bi, Don't Be Afraid

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A French/Vietnamese/German production screened by National Film and Sound Archive as part of their Regional Intersections program. I went to the one and only session at 2pm with my new housemate Amanda, after lunch with her and Tom and his brother, in Canberra for a buck's night, at dear old Café Essen.

This is a series of impressionistic snapshots of urban generational life in Hà Nội, and there is little in the way of plot. What we were sold:

Six year old Bi’s extended family lives near the neighbourhood ice factory. In a steaming Hanoi summer, ice seems to represent each family member’s desires, whether as a playground and tasty treat for Bi, pain relief for his aging grandfather or the inner sexual frustrations of his spinster aunt. The first feature by the writer of Adrift (featured in Regional Intersections 2010) is "... a thoughtful cinematic exploration of inchoate longing, the messy consequences of physical decline and encroaching death, and confirmation that sex and youthful exuberance spring eternal" (Screendaily).

I was surprised at the number of sex scenes in this thing, as I thought this was a Vietnamese production, where traditional allusion typically dominates prurience. It would have been more satisfying if there was more development of the disconnection between father and eldest son, his wife and her sister, and just maybe the mores of the coming generation. Gratuitous the sex is, perhaps an artefact of European involvement rather than indigenous expression. There was some depiction of om culture when Bi's father went to the hair-cut masseuse, albeit with the top-shelf extra being a bottle of water (La Vie).

The copyright read 2008, so it has taken ages to get distribution in the west.