Flash Movie Review: The Scent of Green Papaya

The majority of the people who asked me if I was paying attention never knew how much attention I was actually devoting to them. I was probably studying their face as they were speaking to me. Looking at the shape of their ears, studying the color of their eyes, listening to the sound of their speech, checking their teeth for any errant food particles, noticing any unusual smells wafting off of them; I was trying to expand and fine-tune my senses. Our five senses, some say six, is something I never took for granted. I thought everyone practiced exercising their senses; it never occurred to me that someone would not be doing it. Growing up I thought the more I used my hearing the farther and clearer it would be able to hear sounds. The idea of hearing a colony of ants on the sidewalk as they systematically moved particles of sand fascinated me to no end; I thought with practice one day I would hear them. Little did I know in the adult world hearing or should I say listening would almost be a lost art form. I have encountered so many people who do not hear what a person is telling them. The same can be said about seeing; haven’t you ever walked down the street with a friend and at some point asked them if they saw that stranger standing at the store window or say bus stop? They did not see anyone and have no idea what you are talking about. I have had this happen to me more times than I can count. There is so much going around us in our daily lives that I cannot imagine not being able to experience even a little of it each day. If you are not totally convinced maybe this beautiful drama will help you.    TEN year old Mui, played by relative newcomer Man San Lu, was sent to live with a family who had experienced a tragic loss, to become their servant. Nothing was taken for granted in this household. This film festival winner and Oscar nominated movie had a gentle, quiet story. I say quiet because scenes focused on some of the simplest things but were able to produce exquisite results. With a beautiful music score I thought the script was well done and the actors such as Tran Nu Yenkhe (The Vertical Ray of the Sun, Cyclo) as the adult Mui and relative newcomer Thi Loc Truong as La mere were all totally believable. I enjoyed the way the story moved forward; things were subtly introduced instead of being too overt. In some ways I felt this produced calmness to the story even when there was an issue brewing underneath the surface. In addition, the use of dialog was kept to a minimum. This was the type of picture one could easily sit down to watch and absorb the action with one’s senses. Vietnamese was spoken with English subtitles.


3 1/2 stars — DVD




About moviejoltz

From a long line of movie afficionados, one brother was the #1 renter of movies in the country with Blockbuster, I am following in the same traditions that came before me. To balance out the long hours seated in dark movie theaters, I also teach yoga and cycling. For the past 3 years, I have correctly picked the major Oscar winners... so join me as we explore the wonder of movies and search for that perfect 4 star movie.

Posted on February 26, 2016, in Foreign, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 10 Comments.

  1. Excellent mini essay about the senses and what they bring to the screen.

  2. Ah, noticing things. Reminds me of a quote from Craig Johnson: People ask me what makes a good cop. Well, typing is important, but noticing things helps. Senses in people have become atrophied from junk foods, noise passed off as music, screeching called singing, stench of traffic and city life… too much stink, too much noise and too much salt and sugar. Raised in the north country, under the crackling aurora borealis and panoply of stars that looked alive, I could hear snowshoe hares running over the snow and by hiding silently behind a tree, I would watch them run past me on their trails, their white coats slightly duller than the surrounding snow and if the moon was shining, visible by their shadow. A great horned owl gliding past a hay stack on its mouse hunting could be heard. In spring, summer and fall, however short, the air was filled with a cacophony of insect, bird and mammal cries and calls. Even in a land that was basically flat, open with few copses of trees of few different species there were scents and colours to delight any child. The problem today is a downfall into the default setting of barbarism driven by technologically. Eyesight and hearing ruined at an early age. Olfactory abilities impaired by pollution and allergies, physical “sensibilities” destroyed by chemicals, cigarettes and drugs. Add to that the stress of a greatly speeded up societal squirrel cage; eyes glued to the iphone or ipad and simple “noticing” is meaningless. Who looks for street signs when they have GPS? Man has become an artificial construct, a cartoon character whose every move is totally predictable.

  3. I totally agree. The human senses are moving into a state of atrophy. Everytime I see a teenager with earplugs I cringe. There’s a whole world of music out there and the teen is “plugged in.” what irony.

    The movie “Scent of…” is one of my all tie favorites as is Vertical Ray of the Sun.

    Thanks for a great post.

  4. Jordan Richardson

    I absolutely adore this film. Such a sensory experience in a true sense. And you took a lovely approach as always. Thank you for sharing.

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