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‘The Lady’: Burma’s Suu Kyi biopic on release

Burma's democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi gets a celluloid reincarnation on Wednesday when a movie version of her life by "Fifth Element" and "The Big Blue" director Luc Besson goes on release in France.

'The Lady': Burma's Suu Kyi biopic on release
Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Malaysian star Michelle Yeoh, a former “Bond girl”, plays “The Lady” in a two-hour biopic that focuses on the private life of Suu Kyi, her British husband Michael Aris and their two sons.

Suu Kyi’s struggle for her country came at a high personal cost. Her husband died in 1999 in Britain, and in the final stages of his battle with cancer the Burmese junta denied him a visa to see his wife.

Suu Kyi refused to leave Burma to see him, certain she would never have been allowed to return.

“It was the price she had to pay,” said Luc Besson. “Thousands of people give their lives unquestioningly, simply because they believe it is a just cause.”

“The love that united her with her husband gave her immense strength,” said Michelle Yeoh.

The daughter of Burma’s assassinated independence hero General Aung San, Suu Kyi began her own political career late after spending much of her life abroad.

She studied at Oxford University, had two sons after marrying Aris and looked like she was going to settle into life in Britain.

But when she returned to Yangon in 1988 to nurse her sick mother, protests erupted against the military, which ended with a brutal crackdown that left at least 3,000 dead.

She took a leading role in the pro-democracy movement, delivering speeches to crowds of hundreds of thousands.

This is the point where Besson’s film takes up her story.

Yeoh, who learned Burmese to help her play the part, said she finally got to meet Suu Kyi at her crumbling lakeside mansion in Yangon, where she was under house arrest, as filming was winding down in Thailand.

“She walked up to me to embrace me and take my hand,” she said. “She looks fragile but she emanates great strength.”

Besson also met the subject of his film after her release last November, when filming on the project had already finished.

He recalled finding himself outside the house which his team had scrupulously recreated “practically to the centimetre” in Thailand, where most of the film was shot.

The French filmmaker, whose recent movies also include the popular animated “Arthur” series, did manage to film some scenes in Burma itself, where he posed as a tourist and shot with a small camera.

“I filmed 17 hours of rushes, sometimes with a soldier three metres away,” he recalled.

The film’s actors were then super-imposed on the Burma scenes with the help of “green screen” technology.

Suu Kyi told Besson that she was not yet ready to watch the two-hour film which covers the deaths of her father and her husband.

“She told me ‘I’ll see it when I’m courageous enough,'” he said earlier this month.

But one of her sons has seen it and “was very moved,” the director added.

Besson said he had cried when he first read the script and immediately decided to make “The Lady”.

“It’s very moving when you look at this woman who is fighting for neither power nor money but so that her people can be free,” he told AFP.

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French films with English subtitles to watch in November

As days get shorter and temperatures drop, November is a great month to enjoy a warm and comforting moment at the cinema. Here’s a round up of the French movies with English subtitles to see in Paris this month.

Cinema in France
Photo: Loic Venance/AFP

The cinema group Lost in Frenchlation runs regular screenings of French films in the capital, with English subtitles to help non-native speakers follow the action. The club kicks off every screening with drinks at the cinema’s bar one hour before the movie, so it’s also a fun way to meet people if you’re new to Paris.

These are the events they have coming up in November.

Friday, November 5th

Boîte Noire – What happened on board the Dubai-Paris flight before it crashed in the Alps? In this thriller Matthieu, a young and talented black box analyst played by Pierre Niney (star of Yves Saint-Laurent among other movies) is determined to solve the reason behind this deadly crash, no matter the costs. 

The screening will take place at the Club de l’étoile cinema at 8pm. But you can arrive early for drinks at the bar from 7pm. 

Tickets are €10 full price, €8 for students and all other concessions, and can be reserved here.

Sunday, November 14th

Tralala – In the mood for music? This new delightful French musical brings you into the life of Tralala (played by Mathieu Amalric), a 48 years old, homeless and worn-out street singer, who one day gets mistaken for someone else. Tralala sees an opportunity to get a better life by taking on a new personality. He now has a brother, nephews, ex-girlfriends, and maybe even a daughter. But where is the lie? Where is the truth? And who is he, deep down?

The night will start with drinks from 6pm followed by the screening at 7pm at the Luminor Hôtel de Ville cinema. There is also a two-hour cinema-themed walk where you’ll be taken on a “musicals movie tour” in the heart of Paris, which begins at 4pm.

Tickets cost €10, or €8 for students and concessions, and can be found here. Tickets for the walking tour cost €20 and must be reserved online here.

Thursday, November 18th

Illusions Perdues – Based on the great novel series by Honoré de Balzac between 1837 and 1843, this historical drama captures the writer Lucien’s life and dilemmas who dreams about a great career of writing and moves to the city to get a job at a newspaper. As a young poet entering the field of journalism, he is constantly challenged by his desire to write dramatic and eye-catching stories for the press. But are they all true?

The evening will kick off with drinks at L’Entrepôt cinema bar at 7pm, followed by the movie screening at 8pm. Tickets are available online here, and cost €8.50 full price; €7 for students and all other concessions.

Sunday, November 21st

Eiffel – Having just finished working on the Statue of Liberty, Gustave Eiffel (played by Romain Duris) is tasked with creating a spectacular monument for the 1889 Universal Exposition in Paris. It’s ultimately his love story with Adrienne Bourgès (Emma Mackey) that will inspire him to come up with the idea for the Eiffel Tower.

After a first screening last month, Lost in Frenchlation is organising a new one at the Luminor Hôtel de Ville cinema, with pre-screening drinks at the cinema bar. 

Tickets cost €10, or €8 for students and concessions, and can be found here

Thursday, November 25th

Les Héroïques – Michel is a former junkie and overgrown child who only dreams of motorbikes and of hanging out with his 17-year-old son Léo and his friends. But at 50 years old, he now has to handle the baby he just had with his ex, and try not to make the same mistakes he has done in the past. 

The film will be followed by a Q&A with the director Maxime Roy who will discuss his very first feature. 

Tickets cost €10, or €8 for students and concessions, and can be found here.

Full details of Lost in Frenchlation’s events can be found on their website or Facebook page. In France, a health pass is required in order to go to the cinema.