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(TIME Magazine) CINEMA: Beyond Beli

Subject: (TIME Magazine) CINEMA: Beyond Belief

Attn: Burma Newsreaders
Re: (TIME Magazine) CINEMA: Beyond Belief

Top director John Boorman gets lost in war-torn Burma

Dr. Laura Bowman seems in a perpetual Burma daze. In 1988  Laura (Patricia
Arquette), the heroine of Beyond Rangoon, is with a group of tourists who
want to get out of Burma before the thugs who run the place start killing
everyone. But Laura has not recovered from a personal trauma back home, and
when her group leaves she just ... stays there. It's a pretty region--like
the Mekong Delta in the mid-'60s. Now if only she can find an escort. Why,
here's an amiable native (U Aung Ko). "Hello," he says, in effect, "I'm an
illegal guide in a military dictatorship, and I'd like to plop you into a
genocidal civil war." "Hello," she virtually replies, "I'm a shell-shocked
ninny. Let's go." 

The history of Myanmar, as Burma is now called, resonates with melodrama and
tragedy. The heroic battle of Aung San Suu Kyi, a Nobel Peace Prize winner
for her nonviolent resistance against the ruling junta, is surely worth a
movie. But in Hollywood the problems of one little country--or one big
country with little brown people--don't amount to a hill of unsold scripts.
The Burmese must have a Caucasian mediator, Laura, whose sufferings
illuminate those of the locals. 

Director John Boorman, an artist-adventurer with an eye for pictorial rapture
and social turmoil, brought this sort of scenario alive in The Emerald
Forest. Not so here, where he lapses into banal visual stereotyping: the
rebels are thin, winsome, saintly, while the nasty soldiers have bad skin and

Cast at the last minute (after Meg Ryan left to make another
American-twit-abroad epic, French Kiss), Arquette can do little but whine and
pine in an impossible role. And the film simply forfeits belief with its
notion that Laura, who stumbles through Burma like a girl in a monster movie
after she's seen the giant ants, is a physician. She hardly seems smart
enough to be a patient.     


Copyright 1995 Time Inc. All rights reserved.
Transmitted: 95-08-27 16:06:05 EDT (t5090421)