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Jennifer Jason Leigh,
The group of women from different countries and social levels are prisoners in a Japanese POW camp, where one of them, Adrienne, who is a graduate of the Royal Academy of Music, organizes a vocal band in spite of their guards resistance. Written by
The film is based on actual true events and according to the end coda, the film was inspired by the reminisces of the actual women prisoners of war, many of whom became life-long friends after the ordeal. See more »
Given that each of the women wore a single dress, day in and day out, in a tropical climate for three years straight, the fabric of their clothing would have disintegrated long before that was finally depicted in the film. Also, there's no way that the nuns would have been able to keep the white elements of their habits white, especially given the scarcity of soap. See more »
'Paradise Road' is not the first time the story of European and Australian prisoners of the Japanese during WW2 has been told - there is a famous old movie of Neville Shute's 'A Town Like Alice' and the BBC's wonderful tv series, 'Tenko', from the early 1980s. Nevertheless there is certainly scope for this film, which tells the story of a group of largely upper class women who have to come to terms with captivity and brutality as a 'defeated race' and somehow survive the war. The particular twist to this film is the fact-based story of the choir a group of women started in one camp. In other ways, however, the story is practically identical to 'Tenko', only crammed into around 2 hours instead of 30. This means that the effect is very much like watching one of those Reduced Shakespeare Company shows that do the Complete Works of Shakespeare in one performance. Virtually nothing happens in Paradise Road that doesn't happen in Tenko - fair enough, since it is fact based, but you feel like you're watching whole episodes crammed into a single line and you find yourself desperate for more character development - you never find out, for example, who Glenn Close's character really _is_. Despite this, the acting is top-hole and the script-writing is quite sparky, while production values are for the most part extremely high - this is a very good looking film. And therein lies a problem. While the violence is not sanitised, the starvation is. The women in this film appear to have suffered no more ill effects after 3 years of captivity and hard labour than a healthy sun tan and fetching urchin-style crop. The fight-in-the-shower scene shows us an array of perfect bodies with no sores, sunburn, bruises, skin diseases etc. (Again, Tenko did this much better.) When some of the women are meant to be dying of starvation towards the end the idea that these healthy women are meant to be suffering is so laughable as to be more like amateur dramatics than professional movie making. In failing to give a sense of the struggle to survive that the real women went through, this film diminishes their courage and does not do them justice.
This film is watchable, however, and tells stories that need to be told. Watch it by all means - but 'Tenko' is now out on video, so get that next!
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