Arab Today, arab today the lady by luc besson
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Arab Today, arab today
Arab Today, arab today

The Lady by Luc Besson

Arab Today, arab today

Arab Today, arab today The Lady by Luc Besson

London - Arabstoday

“The Lady,” Luc Besson’s worshipful film about the Myanmar opposition leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, arrives at a propitious moment. In the real world Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi — played by Michelle Yeoh and referred to as Suu in the movie — was elected to Parliament earlier this month, one of the latest signs that Myanmar (formerly known as Burma) may be moving in a democratic direction after a half-century of military dictatorship. Mr. Besson’s movie, while it does not include these very recent developments, nonetheless angles toward an optimistic conclusion. Stories of heroic, self-sacrificing resistance seem to work best if there is at least a provisional happy ending, since their common theme is hope in the face of repression and injustice. But while the screen versions of such stories tend to be reliably inspiring, they are also frequently unsatisfying. Richard Attenborough’s noble, earnest and finally exhausting “Gandhi” is perhaps the supreme modern example, and while “The Lady” is nowhere near as lavish or as long, it similarly paralyzes history and human drama with relentless hagiography. An early scene depicts the death of Suu’s father, Aung San, a nationalist hero crucial to securing Burma’s independence from Britain, who was assassinated by rivals in the Burmese army in 1947, when his daughter was a child. The drama of the event is powerfully conveyed — Mr. Besson has a Spielbergian flair for creating emotion through cross-cutting — but its political meaning is blurry, except insofar as it represents the empowerment of the bad guys. They are still around in the 1990s, when most of the action of “The Lady” takes place. In 1988 Suu returns to Burma from her home in Oxford, England, to attend to her dying mother. Suu’s presence causes discomfort for the ruthless, paranoid and superstitious generals who rule the country. They would like to be rid of her, but her prominence, her international connections and the reluctance to create another martyr like Aung San prevent them from using the usual violent methods. Instead, Suu is invited to leave the country and then, when she refuses, is placed under a house arrest that will stretch, in various forms, over two decades. Suu’s confinement gives Mr. Besson’s film a claustrophobic intensity, but it also threatens to constrain his restless visual energy. A glance at his previous work as a director — it includes “La Femme Nikita,” “The Fifth Element” and “Leon: The Professional” — confirms that this is not a filmmaker with a gift for standing still or moving slowly, and he seems a bit at sea in a narrative that is, above all, a celebration of heroic patience. The chronology lurches back and forth as Mr. Besson tries to turn Suu’s stubbornness into an engine of dramatic momentum. Though she is isolated in her family’s compound in the capital, Suu is not alone in “The Lady.” While it is a chronicle of political courage, the film is also a love story, illuminating the remarkable relationship between Suu and her husband, a British academic named Michael Aris. Played by David Thewlis, Michael is in some ways a more vivid character than the serene, indomitable Suu, whose international fame traps Ms. Yeoh in biopic nobility. Michael, floppy haired and wry, is a classically eccentric don with a very British stiff upper lip. He is devoted to Suu and to her cause, successfully promoting her candidacy for a Nobel Peace Prize and trying, less fruitfully, to outwit the Myanmar authorities who are keeping them apart. Their separation is made all the more painful by the terminal cancer diagnosis Michael receives early in the film, though relatively late in the period it spans. (Mr. Aris died at 53 in 1999.) And yet the movie’s unstinting commitment to emphasizing their goodness — the evident awe in which Mr. Besson and the screenwriter, Rebecca Frayn, hold their subjects — has the effect of blunting the impact of their story. Tears are shed, but no inkling of doubt or tension is allowed to penetrate the aura of idealistic selflessness that shrouds Suu and Michael. And somehow the audience is never permitted to appreciate the depth and profundity of their shared commitment to Myanmar. Similarly, while the movie shows the brutal treatment of Suu’s colleagues in the human rights movement, it does not explore the struggle, discipline and internal friction that are essential to successful political resistance. One result is a film that is programmatically inspirational but not quite as inspiring as it should be. “The Lady” is rated R (Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian). Some violence and torture, more implied than shown.

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