Linh Phung (Isaac), star of a traveling opera company, helps Dung (Lien Binh Phat), a violent mob enforcer, come to terms with his feelings of abandonment (and sexuality) in Leon Le’s strikingly photographed musical melodrama. In a sense, Dung’s roots are in Vietnamese folk opera. The Saigon theatre he grew up in is currently run by a loan shark, for whom he makes a living as a debt collector. If, as (insert name of character I failed to jot down) observes, “A great performer must understand grief,” does the opposite hold true for a mob enforcer’s definition of dispensing grief? By the time things begin to teeter in the direction of conventionality, we’ve become so invested in the characters (and Bob Nguyen’s lighting) that it’s easy to be forgiving. And how many Vietnamese opera companies do you know of, fictional or otherwise, that warm up a crowd to the toe-tapping accompaniment of “The Liechtensteiner Polka”?
Length: 1 hour, 41 minutes