My admiration of Peter Weir‘s The Year of Living Dangerously (MGA/UA, 12.16.82) was immediate and unqualified. Probably the sexiest film ever about a wet-behind-the-ears journalist in an exotic, tinder-box situation — an adult-level thing, a gradually inevitable love story, a feeling of engagement on all levels, highly emotional toward the end.
Apart from the cardinal sin of having been made by white guys (which of course makes it a racist film…right, asshats?), The Year of Living Dangerously is easily among the greatest Asian-set moral and ethical dramas of its type. Where does it rank alongside Phillip Noyce‘s The Quiet American, Francis Coppola‘s Apocalypse Now, Joshua Logan‘s Sayonara, Oliver Stone‘s Platoon, etc.?
My last viewing was on laser disc in the early ’90s (I think) but I haven’t re-watched it since. Which is odd. I don’t like admitting this, but the reason I’ve stayed away is Linda Hunt‘s “Billy Kwan” character. The notion of Billy, a wise and perceptive man about town if there ever was one, suddenly succumbing to despair and offing himself over the excesses of Sukarno-influenced corruption has always struck me as crudely manipulative and un-earned. That hectoring little voice with the deep register, that haughty judgmental moralizing, that glare of outrage…bullshit.
But otherwise a haunting watch with a great Maurice Jarre score**, and certainly with a grand romantic ending.
Yes, Virginia — big studios actually supported and promoted this kind of film from time to time. Not often but it happened.
** I thought for sure the composer was Vangelis, but I was wrong.