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Three Seasons and the Aroma of Self-Realization

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Following its status as a triple award winner at the 1999 Sundance Film Festival, Three Seasons immediately gained a theatrical release before further distribution on video and DVD formats. Directed by Vietnam exile Tony Bui from a screenplay written by himself and brother Timothy Linh Bui, the film gained the honor of being the first American-produced film shot in the Socialist Republic of Vietnam following the official end of the Vietnam War and the relaxation of the economic embargo waged by the losing side for about 20 years later. The film is visually beautiful and lyrical in many ways, so much so that it has often received criticism for its superficial depiction of a post-war society lacking any mention of the Vietnam War itself. Although Tony Bui’s intentions were to move away from the usual cinematic representations of Vietnam, the very nature of his film is far from being a clich├ęd, escapist, Hallmark or Masterpiece Theatre, art house production. Many literary and cinematic depictions of Vietnam have recognized the centrality of the country’s essence involving a particular experential dimension in which aroma plays a key part. Such a representation is neither exotic nor non-materialistic but instead involves a particular narrative trope in which the sensory experience of a national culture represents a crucial aspect of this film.

Keywords: Three Seasons; Tony Bui; Vietnamese film; post-war society; the Vietnam war

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: 2004-09-01

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  • Asian Cinema is a seminal journal, which has been published since 1995 by the Asian Cinema Studies Society under the stewardship of Professor John Lent. From 2012 Asian Cinema will be published by Intellect as part of our Film Studies journal portfolio. The journal currently publishes a variety of scholarly material - including research articles, interviews, book and film reviews and bibliographies - on all forms and aspects of Asian cinema. The journal's broad aim is to advance understanding and knowledge of the rich traditions of the various Asian cinemas, thereby making an invaluable contribution to the field of Film Studies in general.
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