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This film is a puzzle - it's seemingly much better than it's straight-to-video distribution would lead you to believe. In fact I recommend you see it, it is interesting although it did not rise to the level of a keeper for me.


The time is the 1930's and the setting is the British Crown Colony of Sarawak, a province of what was then called Borneo and is now called Malaysia. The movie is filmed on location and the setting is lush jungle and the extras are authentic inhabitants of this region (in fact they would be the descendants of the headhunters portrayed within the film). This film is basicly a Historical Romance set in a lush locale, but there is a strong sub-theme of the British costume dramas often termed "Merchant Ivory".


Jessica Alba ("Max" or "Manticore Subject X5-452" from the James Cameron SF series Dark Angel that limped along for two years, occasionally showing promise) stars as Selima, a "Sleeping Dictionary". She's a young woman assigned to a new British Colonial officer to teach him the local language, in an intimate and intense relationship which includes being his mistress.


The locals apparently have a much more lenient attitude towards sex than the uptight British - the young man she selects (after freely rejecting two others as is her right) is a virgin and she can't understand why. This young man is played by Hugh Dancy, a British actor whom I did not recognize, but who can act better than Alba.


In fact almost everyone in the film acts better than Alba, even those whose native tongue is obviously not English and who appear to be reciting lines phoneticly. The standout performance is that of Bob Hoskins, who plays the senior Briton on station, and this film confirms what I have long suspected, he's a versatile and talented actor.


In fact Alba is the major drawback in this film - she's great until she has to speak a line - great looking, that is, even with an expressive face, but she's badly in need of some acting instruction and a dialogue coach. Furthermore she refuses to do any nude scenes, even though this script in particular calls for such scenes and they would not be at all gratuitous in this setting. The filmmakers resorted to a body double - but I'm convinced this was a later edit, because there comes an obvious camera cut, followed by a lighting change and a glimpse of a female form a little too voluptuous and light-skinned to be Alba. Too bad she's such a prude - this film could have been better than it is, but for this reluctance and her unconvincing dialogue. (At that, she's better here than she was in her first non-juvenile film, a horrid little offering called Paranoid, where she played a teenage model who went to the wrong party and wakes up chained to a bed in someone's basement - but don't bother, it's not worth the time.)


The DVD is an anamorphic 1.85:1 AR with DD 5.1, DTS 5.1, and DD 2.0 audio options. It's a decent transfer and the other aspects of filmmaking are up to snuff. There are no extras on the disk other than previews for some other FineLine Cinema Indie films. The running time is a rather short 109 minutes.


Reccomended as a rental.


Gary
 

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it was good, it was difficult for me to find (i imported it from canada) i found the story interesting, and refreshing. i just wish it was longerer or had some extras
 
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