This C$18 million political saga is a thorough documenting of the life of Canadian doctor Norman Bethune, a hero in China for his medical input during the long march in Mao Tse-tung's revolution.

This C$18 million political saga is a thorough documenting of the life of Canadian doctor Norman Bethune, a hero in China for his medical input during the long march in Mao Tse-tung’s revolution.

The film belongs to Donald Sutherland, who delivers a stunning performance as the complex and controversial surgeon. Harrison Liu delivers a fine performance as Bethune’s protege, Dr Fong, but Helen Shaver (as a missionary in China) and Helen Mirren (as Bethune’s wife) pale beside Sutherland.

Bethune was at once a boozing womanizer, a loving husband, a revolutionary surgeon and an ardently committed anti-fascist. He made a slew of enemies among colleagues and government officials before he declared himself a ‘red’ and headed first to Spain and then to China (the latter of which provides magnificent scenery in the film).

After several years of financial problems from both coprod partners (China and Canada), it’s a relief that the film is better than expected and a disappointment that it is not as good as hoped.

Bethune - The Making of a Hero

Canada - China - France

Production

Filmline/August 1st/Parmentier/Belsta. Director Phillip Borsos; Producer Pieter Kroonenburg, Nicolas Clermont; Screenplay Ted Allan; Camera Mike Molloy, Raoul Coutard; Editor Yves Langlois, Angelo Corrao; Music Alan Reeves

Crew

(Color) Available on VHS. Extract of a review from 1990. Running time: 115 MIN.

With

Donald Sutherland Helen Mirren Helen Shaver Harrison Liu Anouk Aimee Ronald Pickup
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