Saigon: Year of The Cat

Overview

Saigon: Year of the Cat is a low-budget drama about the fall of Saigon. The film was made for the BBC in 1983. It was one of many television projects that director Stephen Frears (High Fidelity) worked on in the early part of his career. Playwright David Hare (Plenty) wrote the script. Judi Dench plays Barbara Dean, a depressed loan officer working for a British bank in Saigon in 1974. Barbara politely wards off the advances of her Scottish co-worker, Donald (Roger Rees), who does not share her respect for the ...
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Overview

Saigon: Year of the Cat is a low-budget drama about the fall of Saigon. The film was made for the BBC in 1983. It was one of many television projects that director Stephen Frears (High Fidelity) worked on in the early part of his career. Playwright David Hare (Plenty) wrote the script. Judi Dench plays Barbara Dean, a depressed loan officer working for a British bank in Saigon in 1974. Barbara politely wards off the advances of her Scottish co-worker, Donald (Roger Rees), who does not share her respect for the Vietnamese people. She also avoids getting involved with Frank (Wallace Shawn), an American embassy employee with whom she plays bridge. When she meets Bob (Frederic Forrest), however, she's immediately attracted to him. She soon learns that while Bob poses as a cultural attaché, he actually works for the CIA. When Bob belatedly recognizes her attraction, he opens up to her, and they become lovers. Bob hears from a reliable intelligence source that the North Vietnamese are stepping up their aggression and plan to take Saigon soon. He tries to convince his boss, Jack Ockham (Josef Sommer), and the U.S. ambassador (E.G. Marshall) to prepare for the fall of the city by evacuating the South Vietnamese citizens who have worked most closely with the U.S. government. The ambassador does not want to appear to be abandoning President Thieu's regime. He refuses to credit Bob's report. Meanwhile, as the crisis looms, Barbara is growing despondent because Bob is not spending time with her, and because there's little she can do to help her South Vietnamese friends get out of the country.
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Editorial Reviews

All Movie Guide - Josh Ralske
Director Stephen Frears was working with a talented cast and a strong script for his BBC production of Saigon: Year of the Cat, but the film fails to match the powerful and trenchant mix of the personal and the political found in his later theatrical films, My Beautiful Launderette and Sammy and Rosie Get Laid. David Hare's screenplay certainly contains all the elements of a fine political drama. The backdrop -- the fall of Saigon -- is fascinating subject matter that has not been explored frequently on film. The main characters, Barbara (Judi Dench) and Bob (Frederic Forrest, best known for playing Chef in Apocalypse Now) are well drawn. Their actions and dialogue are believable and intriguing down to the finest detail. Dramatizing the intimate details of this crucial historical moment, such as the way the bank manager, Mr. Halliwell (Chic Murray), calmly assists a customer while being held at gunpoint, or the matter-of-fact manner in which Bob tells Barbara his views on torturing political prisoners, is where Frears' film is its strongest. These moments give insight into both the characters and the political climate. Frears was clearly hampered, in part, by the film's budget. It was audacious to even attempt to depict a crisis of this scale on a low budget, but the results are sometimes unintentionally amusing. Showing people running down a hallway yelling, for example, does not effectively dramatize a bomber attack on the presidential palace. There is also an embarrassing sequence wherein an extra playing a soldier at the U.S. embassy clearly pretends to fire his rifle, while the gunshot sounds are dubbed in. These moments give the film an irredeemable air of sloppiness, as does the uneven acting of the supporting players. This hampers the cumulative dramatic impact that the filmmakers are trying to generate.
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Product Details

  • Release Date: 6/13/1995
  • UPC: 026359032837
  • Original Release: 1983
  • Rating:

  • Source: Hbo Home Video
  • Format: VHS

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Judi Dench Barbara
Frederic Forrest Bob Chesneau
E.G. Marshall The Ambassador
Josef Sommer Jack Ockham
Wallace Shawn Frank Judd
Chic Murray Mr. Haliwell
Roger Rees Donald Henderson
Charles Dance
Manning Redwood Colonel Fielder
Thomasine Heiner Joan Mackintosh
Clarke Peters Soldier
Bob Sherman Ambassador's Aide
Andrew Winner Officer
Technical Credits
Stephen Frears Director
George Fenton Score Composer
Susie Figgis Casting
David Hare Associate Producer, Screenwriter
Claude Hudson Production Manager
Verity Lambert Producer
David Marshall Production Designer
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