Scent of Green Papayas, The (1993): Hung Tran Anh’s Festival Winner from Vietnam (Cannes Fest)

Toronto Film Festival 1993–I would like to single out “The Scent of the Green Papayas,” which I missed in Cannes Film Dest (in May) and rushed to see in Toronto Fest.

Almost wordless, and marked by great pictorial visuals, “The Scent of the Green Papayas” is one of the most beautiful films I have seen in years.  Directed by Hung Tran Anh, this Vietnamese-French co-production is set in Vietnam in the 1950s, when the country was under the French occupation.

The film’s heroine is Mui, a 12-year old servant, who frames the sensitive tale with her delicate presence–and consistent point of view.

One of the picture’s great achievements, other than its gorgeous painterly tableaux, is that politics remains in the background and its impact is felt in a most subtle way.

A major contribution to the cinematic literature of coming of age and growing pains, “The Scent of the Green Papayas” also provides a wry commentary on life’s unexpected twists and turns.

Oscar Context:

The Scent of the Green Papayas, from Vietnam, was nominated for the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar, but did not win.  The winner that year was Bell Epoque, from Spain.