The Lover, a sophisticated adaptation of Marguerite Duras’ bestselling memoir about her love affair as a 15-year-old with a rich, older Chinese man, lacks the distinctive voice and ambiance of the book, but the abundant sex – soft-core and tasteful – and the splendid sets make up for the film’s banal style.
No expense has been spared – the film cost $22 million – in Jean-Jacques Annaud’s evocation of the pungent atmosphere of the story’s 1920s Vietnam setting.
Part of the fault lies with Jane March, a pretty 17-year-old English actress who plays the young Duras. She pouts to perfection but does not convey the jaded spirit of the girl. Tony Leung is excellent as the shiftless scion whose love for the girl makes him emotionally naked and vulnerable.
In the film’s well-handled subplot, Frederique Meininger is superb as the girl’s exhausted schoolteacher mother. Most powerful scene deals with the mother’s farewell to her son (Arnaud Giovaninetti), who is being sent back to France.
1992: Nomination: Best Cinematography