Produced by Tran Thanh Hung. Executive producer, Ho Quang Minh.
Directed by Ho Quang Minh, Screenplay, Nguy Ngu, Minh. Camera (color), Le Dinh An; editor, Bui Kim Hoang; music, Dang Huu Phue; production design, Nguyen Quy Vien; sound, Nguyen Van Dung. Reviewed at Toronto Film Festival, Sept. 8, 1996. Running time: 84 MIN.
With: Phuong Dung, Le Tuan Anh, Hoang Phue.
Stiffly scripted and acted, laden with Buddhist ceremony, low on production values, “Gone, Gone, Forever Gone” lives up to its title. This leisurely mediation on two brothers separated by decades of Vietnamese history reps a sad nadir by Swiss-based director Ho Quang Minh, who started so promisingly two features ago with the rural drama “Karma” (1985).
Film opens in 1985 with one brother discussing the restoration of the imperial city of Hue, in central Vietnam, to its former glory after years of war. Through a flashback starting in 1945 and progressing through partition, pic reveals how the pair were separated when one became a leftist cadre and the other later left for the U.S. Their sister joined a Buddhist munnery and, after 30 years, it is through her that the brothers finally meet again. Period.
A case could be made that Minh’s film deliberately echoes the non-conflictive teachings of Buddha, but what ends up onscreen is a snooze-inducing yarn bereft of character and drama that plays more like a propaganda sheet for the religion. Pic was a lame headliner for the Toronto festival’s Vietnamese retro.