Before Vietnam, there was Indochina; before the Americans, the French. The languorous first half of Wargnier's epic historical romance is pretty much as you'd expect: plantation-owner Deneuve in impeccably starched jodhpurs, coolies in their place, civilisation transplanted to a hothouse. She begins a passionate affair with a young naval officer (Perez), but he falls in love with her adopted Vietnamese daughter (Linh Dan Pham). When he is sent to a remote outpost on the Gulf of Tonkin, the girl takes after him. And Wargnier follows. Midway through, having involved us so deeply in colonial enterprise, he abruptly cuts our cultural ties and plunges into sweeping revolutionary myth: the lovers go on the run, the girl discovers her people, their struggle, what her role must be. If Bertolucci tried his hand at a mini-series, it would probably look something like this. The allegorical intimations may not be entirely credible, given the piece's lush romanticism; it's rather enervatingly composed; and the pacing could certainly be tighter. But such grand old-fashioned melodrama is almost as exotic as the stunning Vietnamese landscape; it's easy to be seduced by it.