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Wired News about "Beyond Rangoon"
- Subject: Wired News about "Beyond Rangoon"
- From: FreeBurma@xxxxxxx
- Date: Mon, 22 May 1995 04:20:00
Attn: Burma Newsreaders
Re: Wired News about "Beyond Rangoon"
"Beyond Rangoon" Falls Short
Beyond Rangoon (Political adventure-drama, no rating, 1:37)
In the In Cannes Film Festival (competing)
By Todd McCarthy
HOLLYWOOD (Variety) - Another of John Boorman's ambitious,
highly physical explorations of a remote foreign culture,
``Beyond Rangoon'' goes only part of the way in elucidating its
topical subject matter and its tormented leading lady.
Engaging on the basis of its unusual Burmese setting and the
extreme jeopardy of its protagonists, film ultimately falls short
due to its conventional Westerner-caught- in-an-exotic-land
format, insufficient analysis of a little-known political
situation and one-dimensional characterizations.
Without strong reviews, this Castle Rock production looms as
a commercial also-ran, although foreign chances look somewhat
better than U.S. prospects.
A visit to another world, akin to several other Boorman
pictures, physically handsome effort was planned with Meg Ryan as
In the end, Patricia Arquette took on the role of Laura
Bowman, an American doctor trying to escape the devastating
memories of the murder of her husband and young son by getting
literally as far away from the U.S. as possible.
With her sister Andy (Frances McDormand), Laura is in Burma
in 1988 when the peaceful protests against the military
government begin to reach a crescendo.
One night after curfew, Laura is moved when she witnesses
pacifist leader Aung San Suu Kyi (who later won the Nobel Peace
Prize while under house arrest) bravely defy the massed troops by
moving through them to address the crowd.
Soon, however, the army violently cracks down on the
demonstrators, killing scores of them in actions that for the
most part went unreported in the West at the time.
In the first of numerous melodramatic contrivances in Alex
Lasker and Bill Rubenstein's screenplay, Laura manages to lose
her passport and is left behind when her sister and the rest of
her touring party beat a hasty retreat from the country.
Seeking a safe haven away from the capital, she escapes with
ostensible guide U Aung Ko, a former professor and political
dissident who eludes martial law in taking Laura to a rural
monastery populated by idealistic students.
Ever-encroaching pressure from the repressive regime sets
Laura and U Aung Ko on the run once again, turning the film into
a chase in which the imperiled duo barely manage to stay one step
ahead of the trigger-happy soldiers.
When the professor is injured, Laura is forced to take
charge, hitching a ride on a large bamboo river raft, killing a
man who's preparing to rape her and ultimately getting them back
to Rangoon, where they come under fire during a horrendous
In the well-staged climax, Laura, U Aung Ko and their
colleagues are forced, in ``For Whom the Bell Tolls'' fashion, to
dodge bullets as they make mad dashes across a river to an exile
compound in Thailand.
The momentary excitement of the large-scale action sequences
notwithstanding, the film never goes more than halfway in
satisfying on all its levels of concentration -- as psychological
exploration of Laura's inner journey, as expose of a
little-dramatized political situation and as pure adventure
Even though the particulars of Burmese history and politics
are never explained in detail, the weight of the totalitarian
tyranny depicted makes the rather reckless behavior of a stray
American seem borderline silly and irrelevant.
Once again, the peril of a Yank on the loose in exotic
territory is made to seem of rather more urgent concern than the
fate of any number of anonymous Third Worlders.
Unlike ``The Killing Fields,'' the recent film ``Beyond
Rangoon'' most closely resembles, this one features an American
who is in Asia for essentially arbitrary rather than professional
reasons, one who naively and annoyingly reacts to military
strong-arm tactics with protestations like, ``They can't do
Matters aren't helped by the casting and central performance
of Arquette, who simply doesn't have the presence and command to
carry such a big picture, as the part requires her to do.
Not the least bit convincing as a doctor, she mostly
registers varying degrees of frantic desperation in reaction to
the chaotic events around her and never develops the dimensions
of intellectual and emotional growth that would have brought
Laura to full life.
Nonpro U Aung Ko, himself an exile from Burma for 20 years,
acquits himself honorably as Laura's knowing, good-humored
companion. Other perfs are strictly surface.
Where the film excels is in its physical re-creation of the
virtually unknown history of a relatively unfamiliar land.
Substituting Malaysian locations for off-limits Burma, Boorman
has staged some convincing set pieces of savage violence against
defenseless citizens, as well as some muscular action in river
and thick jungle settings.
The accomplishment of these sequences, however, goes well
beyond the level of the script or characterizations.
Particular kudos are due production designer Anthony Pratt
for his evocation of a very foreign milieu. The documentary
background of lenser John Seale is used to vivid advantage in
bringing an immediacy to the proceedings, although some of the
visual backgrounds are bleached out at times.
One can only salute Boorman's desire to bring the sorry
recent history of Burma (now Myanmar) to the world's attention,
but he didn't find the most effective way of dramatizing it.
Laura Bowman .......... Patricia Arquette
Andy Bowman .......... Frances McDormand
Jeremy Watt .......... Spalding Gray
U Aung Ko .......... U Aung Ko
Mr. Scott .......... Victor Slezak
Aung San Suu Kyi .......... Adelle Lutz
A Columbia release of a Castle Rock Entertainment
presentation of a Pleskow/Spikings production. Produced by Barry
Spikings, Eric Pleskow. Executive producer, Sean Ryerson.
Co-producers, Alex Lasker, Bill Rubenstein.
Directed by John Boorman. Screenplay, Alex Lasker, Bill
Rubenstein. Camera (Technicolor, Panavision widescreen), John
Seale; editor, Ron Davis; music, Hans Zimmer; production design,
Anthony Pratt; art direction, Errol Kelly; set decoration, Eddie
Fowlie; costume design, Deborah La Gorce Kramer; sound (Dolby
SR), Gary Wilkins; associate producers, Mark Egerton, Walter
Donohue; assistant director, Egerton; second unit camera, David
Burr; casting, Mary Gail Artz, Barbara Cohen.
Transmitted: 95-05-21 23:54:43 EDT
A Cannes Note Book
British director John Boorman, a veteran of exotic adventures like
``Excalibur'' and ``The Emerald Forest,'' sent his American heroine Patricia
Arquette into crocodile-infested waters for ``Beyond Rangoon.''
During shooting of the final scene of the film on the 1988 Burmese
democracy protests, Arquette pleaded: ``John, I'm scared. There are
crocodiles here. I've got a kid.''
``He just jumped into the muddy water and grabbed a leech and waved it at
me. He told me: 'If this eats you, you'll become part of the life cycle,'''
Arquette, who stars as an American doctor caught up in the protests' bloody
repression, recounted at a news conference.
``Women in films usually have to be an object of desire. This movie was a
good opportunity to get dirty,'' she added.
By John Follain
CANNES, France (Reuter) - British director John Boorman, best known for
his escapist adventure films, Friday entered the Cannes festival with a
highly political film about Burma's crackdown on democracy protests in 1988.
``Beyond Rangoon'' is dedicated to Nobel Peace prize-winner Aung San Suu
Kyi, who symbolizes the protest movement in the Southeast Asian country and
has lived under house arrest in Burma since 1989.
Boorman, 62, said he had to overcome pressure from Burma's military
government to picture its bloody repression on the silver screen -- it went
largely unseen abroad because foreign television crews were expelled.
``A film can't change the world but I do think that when people have had
the emotional experience of seeing a movie like this they will read more
about Burma. We plan to show it to as many politicians as possible,'' he told
a news conference.
``You could say this is my first film with a powerful political content
but much more important for me is the courage and the overcoming of fear
shown by the characters,'' said Boorman, who made ``Excalibur'' and ``The
A young American doctor (Patricia Arquette), vacationing in Burma to try
to forget the murder of her husband and child, rallies behind the protesters
and flees with them as troops hunt her down.
Sickened by the repression, she saves an activist and regains the will to
live after crossing rainforests and rapids.
Boorman, who made several clandestine forays into Burma for research,
shot the film in Malaysia but Rangoon authorities put pressure on his hosts
and he was told to leave after several months of shooting.
``We were horrified. We'd built pagodas, villages and a giant statue of a
reclining Buddha,'' he said.
He managed to negotiate permission to stay provided he strike out all
references to Burma in the script. He obliged and got the script approved,
but went ahead and shot his original plan anyway.
The team worked from eyewitness accounts and photographs to recreate
crowd protests outside the U.S. embassy in Rangoon and the army's shooting of
protesters. Hundreds, perhaps thousands, of people were killed.
One electrifying scene has Aung San Suu Kyi, confronted by soldiers
pointing their guns at her at a Rangoon demonstration, walk up to them and
lead the crowd through unharmed.
Leader of the National League for Democracy, she lives separated from her
family and her British husband is allowed only rare visits. She has refused
an offer from authorities to go into exile.
The NLD swept more than 80 percent of the seats in 1990 elections. But
the government ignored the results, claiming a new constitution had to be
drawn up before any transfer of power to a civilian government could occur.
Professor and pro-democracy activist U Aung Ko was asked of the risks he
had taken in appearing in the film as himself:
``I am aware of the danger and of course I will be careful but that is
not the important thing to me. What is important is to have made this film.''
Transmitted: 95-05-21 17:48:39 EDT