Friday, 18 February 2011

Saigon: Year of the Cat

I begin with a film which I presume was made for Television called Saigon: Year of the Cat starring Judy Dench as a senior official in a bank in the capital who appears to have been there for years if not a decade or more and establishes a relationship with a USA embassy official over the last year before the abandonment of the capital to the north led communists. To date I can find no reference to the film on the Internet despite being written by David Hare and with Dame Dench. I am not surprised because it is an odd film, British colonial in style, perhaps intentional, in which the principle characters live in their own world, playing bridge at the club, insulated against the reality of the war and the life of the majority of the people. You feel that the character portrayed has been living a better life than she would have experienced at home and that she is experienced in serious physical relationships with men.

Her lover in this instance prepares a report on the situation in the south which indicates that the war is effectively lost and that every effort should be made to o take to safety all those who have assisted the USA. The Ambassador sits on the analysis because defeat and withdrawal is not an option and he believes that the provision of more funds will turn the tide and secure the south.

There is an excellent account of those last few days and hours as panic spread in the city. There is a shot of records of contacts being left in the embassy as the staff rush to exit taking basic personal possession with them. There is also a shot of someone who was promised to be picked up, still waiting but getting no answer.

The scene however was brilliantly exploited theatrically in the stage musical Miss Saigon which I saw in London three or even four times. I must check sometime. At one level Dame Judy does not appear have the figure and personality of someone to have passionate all absorbing sexual based affairs with men, married or single but I return to my experience where as a young social worker I was asked to deal with the children left behind with a severely disabled mother after the husband had run off with the wife in another family. The running away couple were a most unlikely pair in terms of their physical appearance and lifestyle. In terms of my own experience when I was a young man in work at sixteen there was a secretarial office worker ten to fifteen years older than myself who was known to be having a relationship with a much younger man working in the same office. Nine years later when I went into the staff restaurant at an East East Anglian local authority where I was commencing a summer practical work placement of three months, I met the same individual who in today’s jargon, hit on me offering the use of her car on hearing that I was getting about the large county using public transport. I did not take up the offer, although with hindsight this was more because I did not fancy the woman rather than any morality question.

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