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November 12, 1986 - Image 7

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 1986-11-12

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

ARTS
Wednesday, November 12, 1986

The Michigan Daily

--Page;7.

'Tai' panned: Big screen
miniseries is major flop

By Greg Ferland
The film Tai-Pan wants to be a
full-blown epic but fails miserably.
It's a harmless, boring, lackluster
movie which will soon be found on
your local cable station or bargain
bin at your video store, so there's
no need to pay to see it now.
The setting of the film is
Canton China, 1839. British
merchants have been expelled from
China for selling opium. In
retaliation, British parliament
demands the island of Hong Kong
for the mistreatment of their
merchants. The man in charge of
setting up shop in Hong Kong has
been named Tai-Pan by the
Chinese, which means "favored by
God", because of his luck in busi -
ness. The rest of the film deals
with the trials and tribulations of
living in Hong Kong with his
Chinese slave.
I believe there are two reasons
for making an adventure film for
cinematic release instead of for

television. An adventure movie
should be more colorful,
flamboyant, and exciting than what
a small TV screen can produce.
Also a film should show more than
a TV movie could; especially an R-
rated movie like Tai-Pan. Well,
Tai-Pan delivers in only one
respect. It shows nudity ,
beheadings, castrations, etc., but
these puerilities do not make a good
film, especially when the are
obviously thrown in to spice-up the
movie and are not intrinsic to the
plot. Tai-Pan is certainly no
exciting epic. Some sets are nice,
but the cinematography is so bleak.
The usual background is a white
sky and grey sea. This film was
shot entirely on location, and
makes Hong-Kong seem perfect for
the setting of the next Alcatraz
prison.
The role of Tai-Pan is played by
Brian Brown (FIX, and recently lost
the role of the new James Bond to
Timothy Dalton) who is good
enough in a one- dimensional role.
His female Chinese slave/lover can
do a fine Charlie Chan imitation
while spouting dumb dialogue.

The acting, along with the
direction, lighting, sets, dialogue,
and plot all belong -in an ABC
miniseries and not a movie for
people to pay to see. The audience
it drew was mainly a "miniseries
audience." There were very few
students there and it seems like
some people attending put down
their Harlequin books for two hours
to see one put on celluloid, and
they probably weren't disappointed.
In one scene Tai-Pan says,"By
the sweet Jesus, I'm lost." The
audience can certainly sympathize
with him! All the blonde women
in this movie look the same, which
is confusing until you recognize
their voices, and one time the
audience literally threw their hands
up in despair because a scene made
no sense at all.
I have to admit the ending was a
complete surprise to me, but it
definitely did not make up for the
rest of the movie. It was also left
open for a sequel, which seems
unlikely because most people will
agree this movie is merely a flash
in the (Thai) pan.

Suave, charmoing Bryan Brown swaggers around China (and does little else) in the new release "Tai-Pan."

Books

Bitter Victory
By Robert Shaplen
Harper & Row
$16.95
It has been a long time since an
American brought back news from
Vietnam or Cambodia, so Robert
Shaplen's Bitter Victory, an accout
of how those two countries have
P fared since the war's end, comes as a
welcome report from that corner of
the world. Shaplen has had thirty
years of experience covering
Southeast Asia. He first went in
1946, when the Vietnamese began
their war against the French
colonials, and was among the
Americans who fled Saigon by
helicopter on April 29, 1975, as the
-North Vietnamese marched into the
city.
Bitter Victory is touted as "a
veteran correspondent's dramatic
account of his return to Vietnam
and Cambodia ten years after the
swar". Fortunately for readers, this is
misleading. The book is not
"dramatic," but rather, informative.
And altough Shaplen does include
many personal accounts and
observations, he does not make
himself the focus of the book.
Shaplen's account of the changes
that have taken place in Vietnam,
which takes up the first half of the

book, is only passingly interesting.
Relevant information-and down-to-
earth stories are often passed over in
favor of superficial information--
the quality of the shrimp in Saigon
or the hotels in Hue, for example.
Shaplen provides updates on several
of his friends, including a
folksinger, a Buddhist monk, and
various writers. These have their
moments, but it would have been
more interesting to hear about
changes in the lives of ordinary
Vietnamese. Shaplen is upbeat
when he talks of their lot, but he
uses government statistics, not al -
ways reliable, to support his view.
The book is at its best when it
delves into history. For the first
time, we are able to hear the North
Vietnamese tell their story of the
war, and tell an American why his
country lost. Major General Dinh
Duc Thien, the North Vietnamese
officer in charge of the famous Ho
Chi Minh Trail, tells Shaplen he
had great admiration for the United
States, but that we were unable to
"analyze and estimate the unknown
elelments of the war." Thien tells
of how the most sophisticated
American bombs were easily
detected, and usually taken care of
by a man with a tree branch or a
long wire. In the end, Thien
concludes, "Our national will and
determination were what made the

big difference."
The final third of the book deals
with Cambodia, Vietnam's
neighbor to the west and a burr in
it's mane since the Khmer Rouge
communists took over in 1975.
Between one and two million
Cambodians died as a result of
starvation or execution in the next
three years. Vietnam invaded
Cambodia in 1978 to stop Khmer
Rouge attacks on its borders, and
since then Cambodia has been the
joker in the pack of Southeast
Asian politics. The country is the
subject of political machinations
involving China, the Soviet Union,
the United States, Thailand,
Vietnam, the Association for
Southeast Asian Nations, and
several internal factions.
Cambodian affairs have become
so complicated that the United
Nations, with the United States'
blessing, finds it - politically
necessary to recognize the Khmer
Rouge as the legitimate govern -
ment of Cambodia, instead of the

more benign puppet regime
installed by the Vetnamese.
Shaplen takes the whole problem
apart, going back over thirty years
to recount, in detail, the events that
led Cambodia to the position it is
in now. He finds much to admire in
Prince Norodom Sihanouk, the mo -
derate Cambodian politician who is
now fighting alongside the Khmer
Rouge to free his country from the
Vietnamese.
Taken as a whole, Bitter Victory
is an unbalanced book, part local
color, part straight reporting, part
history. It succeeds best as a
historical document, as it tells the
little-heard Vietnamese side of the
war. The book's very existence is
proof that things have changed
since 1975. When Shaplen met
Vietnamese Politburo memeber Le
Duc Tho, he was told, "You are the
first American I have seen since
Paris." The Paris peace talks ended
in 1973
-Edward Kleine

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