OWL AND THE SPARROW Image

OWL AND THE SPARROW

By Admin | November 12, 2007

Three hapless souls, lost in modernizing Saigon, loveless and lonely, victims of an emerging capitalist system that exploits them and leaves them in increasingly sterile surroundings.

It sounds like a set-up for something hopelessly didactic, but instead what you get is one of the best small films you could hope for.

Lan (Cat Ly) is a flight attendant whose life is spent either in the air or in airless hotel rooms, where she’s having a cheap affair with a married pilot. Hai (Le The Lu) is a zookeeper whose girlfriend has dumped him for more upwardly mobile possibilities, and whose favorite elephant is about to be sold out from under him, and Thuy (Pham Thi Han) is a ten-year-old girl whose parents are dead. She’s left to live with and work for her abusive uncle, who runs a bamboo factory.

Thuy runs away from home and ends up striking up tenuous, separate relationships with Lan and Hai; eventually, of course, she’s caught and sent back to her uncle, and Lan and Hai meet and set about bringing her “home,” which, they come to realize, means them.

It’s a low budget film written and directed by American cinematographer Stephane Gauger, who shot it guerilla style on the streets of Saigon using two cameras. The technique gives the film a genuineness and immediacy that’s unusual, and makes Saigon in effect a major character.

Gauger lucked out with the actors. They’re all excellent. But the actors lucked out too: Gauger gives them honest things to say, and while they’re all struggling, we never get the sense that their economic fate determines who they are as people. It’s a lovely achievement.

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