Tuesday, May 21, 2024

With "Mai" Vietnam stretches for the global market

"Mai" (2024) represents an interesting film professionally done.  Although promoted as a romance it does not have a happy ending.  It has already been the top box office for a Vietnam film in the home country.  It is currently making strong efforts for North America.  

 Mai is an attractive woman in her thirties who is a masseuse.  New to an apartment complex with other men and women.  We also meet Duong, the spoiled son of a wealthy woman while he is having sex in a nearby apartment.  He takes a shine to Mai, but is repelled for a while.  A third party we meet by video phone is Binh Minh, a daughter about 20 years of age.  

Their massage is legitimate, but the women often have to deal with male customers who want extra services.  Mai is so innovative and good with massaging that the other women are losing business and resent it.  

Mai finally succumbs to Duong who is in his early twenties.  She has a past she doesn't want to talk about that has prevented her from getting too attached to any man and Duong is irresponsible and immature.  Nonetheless she falls for him and agrees to meet his family.  A big surprise is meeting his mother, Dao who she had already a good relationship with.  The rest of the film revolves around Dao's strong wish to break up the couple.  She is not against Mai and in fact is concerned she not marry her irresponsible son.

Duong has made an effort to be responsible, but his mother is clamping down.  He had a job playing the piano at a nightclub, but his mother forced him to be fired.  They do seem an odd pair, not for an age discrepancy, but personalities.  But our sympathy for the couple increases.  Be prepared for more surprises.

In the future you likely will hear of the cast and crew either from Vietnamese or other sources.  Here are some of the key ones.

Tran Thanh was the director, executive producer and co-editor.  He speaks Vietnamese, Cantonese and English. Tran has ben a very popular tv. host.  He took part in a video program for foreigners to learn Vietnamese.  As a very talented mimic he has been used to dub foreign animated films into Vietnamese.  He has 13 acting credits plus 3 for directing and 3 for editing.  

Thao Nguyen was a producer.  She has 10 producing credits, 7 for editing and 1 for camera and electrical department.  She produced a Korean film made in Vietnam, "The Roundup" (2022).

Nguyen Hoang Anh composed the music.  She had been a songwriter, arranger and music producer for top singers in Vietnam.  She has 30 composing credits.

Diep The Vinh was the cinematographer with 8 cinematography credits and 3 for the camera and electrical department.

Phuong Anh Dao played Mai.  She has 12 acting credits.  She is very memorable.

Tuan Tran played Duong.  He grew up in overty and at age 4 accompanied his mother when she sold lottery tickets.  He learned to play the piano for this role.  He has 7 acting credits.

Hong Dao played Duong's mother in a key role.  She was part of a comic duo performing in both Vietnam and the U.S.  She has 17 credits for acting including "Beef" (2023), an American series.  

Uyen An played Binh Minh., the daughter of Mai.  She is the sister of the director Tran Thanh who made her cut her hair to fit the role.  She has 2 acting credits.

A lot of us think of Vietnam as a war torn country, but in fat is modernizing and starting to produce films that will engage Western viewer.  Available sub-titled on Netflix.

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