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Deep Blue and The Beautiful Country
Reviewed by Dennis Morton
Review Date: 8.2
.05 & 8.3.05

The reviewers screening for Deep Blue had just concluded and as we were leaving the theatre I cornered James Aschbacher. James is a painter. His pieces are colorful and surreal, in the most playful of ways. Every time I see a painting by James, it makes me feel good.

“James”, I said, “after watching this movie, there is one thing I am sure of about art. I am sure that there is no such thing as abstract art. What I had thought of as abstract before, I now realize is either the conscious or unconscious recapitulation of forms and images and shapes and colors that have existed in nature for eons.” Well, I said it almost like that. He knew what I was talking about, that's for sure. We had just watched what, in my opinion, is an amazing and magnificent film, a documentary about life in the world's oceans. This is a film that calls for the full panoply of ones arsenal of over-the-top adjectives. Just imagine a mouthful of them. None can do justice to this film And the movie is even more remarkable for the restraint, good taste, and wise choices made by the director. Pierce Brosnan provides the voice-over. More than a few times, the writing rises to the level of poetry, and the delivery is perfect. There is never an extra word used in the narration. Long periods of silence, and just the right score complement the images. The cinematography is truly extraordinary, inspiring awe in me, over and over and over. When it comes to etiology, I'm an agnostic. I just don't know who or what or if, when it comes to God. But proselytizers could do a lot worse than to haul doubters to this film. I think I came close to a religious experience watching Deep Blue . We came from the ocean, eons ago. It won't take me that long to return to this amazing film, over and over. Deep Blue opens soon at The Nickelodeon Theatre in downtown Santa Cruz . Take the whole clan to see it. Also opening soon at The Nickelodeon is an unusual film called The Beautiful Country . I have read two novels that touch on the stories of boat people. Denis Johnson's Fiskadoro , and the incomparable Richard Power's Operation Wandering Soul deal, in part, with the plight of refugees who find their way to America via boat. And there is, of course, that beautiful poem by Thich Nat Hahn that many of us have heard or read. But I don't recall a movie that focuses on the subject. The Beautiful Country does. It tells the story of Binh, who in his native Vietnam , in the year 1990, is among the disenfranchised called collectively – Bui Doi – which means: less than dust. That's poetry, too, but in Vietnam it's a pejorative used to describe children with American fathers. The Bui Doi are outcasts. When Binh's aunt decides to marry a local suitor, the new head of the house sends Binh packing. It's the beginning of a long journey that Binh undertakes, the goal of which is to find his American father. What happens along the way is the movie. And more than a few times we will be reminded, mostly obliquely, but sometimes overtly, that even many of the least of us in the west are born to a material privilege unknown in much of the world.

I was moved by The Beautiful Country , and by the presence of Damien Nguyen, the quietly charismatic young actor who stars in the role of Binh. Without hesitation I recommend Deep Blue and The Beautiful Country . Each puts Hollywood to shame.