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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
In "The Year of Living Dangerously" director Peter Weir attempts much and accomplishes most of his goals. It's a socio-political essay on the dangers of Western meddling in Third World countries. It's a fascinating view into the challenges of journalism in a volatile foreign country. It's a steamy romance involving two beautiful, intelligent characters. It's a distinctly Far Eastern morality play that seems to delight in yin/yang paradoxes. Plus it's one of the best films at evoking the mood, texture, and sensuality of life in Southeast Asia. Don't be too harsh on Weir for the lapses in historic accuracy and plotting, because it's a complicated, busy landscape he is painting here. The best things about the film are:
-Linda Hunt's amazing performance. Unlike other gender-bending performances (Julie Andrews in "Victor/Victoria", Dustin Hoffman in "Tootsie") you never once give any thought to the fact that this is a woman playing a man. It's a seamless transition and a performance of immense heart and honesty. The image of a distraught Billy pounding at his typewriter, pleading "What then must we do?" while an aria swells around him and the eyes of Jakarta's poor stare at him from his own photographs, is an incredibly moving scene.
-The atmosphere created by the combination of Russell Boyd's cinematography and Maurice Jarre's score. Take a look at the scene with Weaver walking through the streets of Jakarta in a tropical downpour. The effect is breathtaking.
-The chemistry between Gibson and Weaver. You can feel the heat between them. Unlike other posters here, I believe their romance is one of the film's strong points.
I agree that the ending is a bit of a letdown, but it doesn't diminish Weir's accomplishments. "The Year of Living Dangerously" is a startling unique film, and certainly one his best.
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