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Guy Hamilton is a journalist on his first job as a foreign correspondent. His apparently humdrum assignment to Indonesia soon turns hot as President Sukarno electrifies the populace and frightens foreign powers. Guy soon is the hottest reporter on the story with the help of his photographer, half- Chinese dwarf Billy Kwan, who has gone native. Guy's affair with diplomat Jill Bryant also helps. Eventually Guy must face some major moral choices and the relationship between Billy and him reaches a crisis at the same time the politics of Indonesia does. Written by
I just caught TYOLD again on PBS, not having seen it for perhaps ten years. Wonder of wonders, compared to many other films of the early '80s, this one is just as riveting as it was when I first saw it and doesn't look like it has aged a minute. In addition I am picking up many nuances of the film that I had never seen before.
What I know, and knew, about the tribulations of Indonesia in the 1960's is contained in the reels of this film. The subject matter is so far outside of the typical Western/American perspective that it is amazing that the film got made. Gibson is very good as Guy Hamilton, and his performance is much more lean and energetic than what he has done since - he hadn't had years of Hollywood gloss and Lethal Weapon familiarity to file down his performances into the predictable boxes they have become. Sigourney Weaver is elegant, although her English accent is never really convincing and sometimes disappears altogether. Linda Hunt's portrayal of Billy Kwan is astonishing and won her a well-deserved Oscar in an incredible gender-switching performance that was inspired casting.
One thing I never noticed before was how Billy placed each of the three main characters in their perspective as the Indonesian puppets he explains to Guy. Arjuna, the hero who can be fickle and selfish (Guy). The princess he will fall in love with (Weaver's character). And the dwarf, who carries the wisdom for Arjuna (Billy Kwan).
I haven't much more to say about this film aside from how much I admire it and recommend it to anyone who hasn't seen it. Beautifully shot, well paced, with good performances and about an interesting and important subject matter, it is well worth your time.
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