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New film honours Việt Nam's timeless áo dài

Update: November, 15/2017 - 09:00
The Tailor: Actress Ngô Thanh Vân (left) stars in the movie.
Viet Nam News

Thúy Hằng

HÀ NỘI – The long-lasting beauty of áo dài – the traditional dress of Vietnamese women – has become the inspiration for the film Cô Ba Sài Gòn (The Tailor), which opens today in theatres around the country.

Set in Sài Gòn [former name of HCM City] in the 1960s, the movie tells the story of Thanh Mai (played by Ngô Thanh Vân), the owner of a boutique tailor shop called Thanh Nữ and her arrogant daughter, Như Ý (played by Ninh Dương Lan Ngọc). While her mother tries to convince her daughter to carry on the family’s traditional job making áo dài – a craft they have practiced for nine generations – Như Ý, who is also a designer, thinks the traditional dress old-fashioned. She is interested only in Western-style outfits.

The film flashes forward 48 years to 2017. Như Ý finds herself old, fat and alcoholic, living in a desolate house that once was a famous and elegant boutique shop. She is also facing potential eviction. Face to face, the young Như Ý of the 1960s and the old Như Ý (played by Hồng Vân) of the present have several arguments, blaming each other for the decline of the shop. That is when the arrogant young woman finally opens her eyes to the beauty of the traditional dress. She becomes determined to rebuild the ruined family business by producing the dress.

The vibrant fashion culture of Sài Gòn, both past and present, forms a backdrop for the entire movie. In addition, the movie also features several leading women of Vietnamese cinema, including famous 1990s actresses Diễm My and Thủy Hương, and two representatives of Vietnamese cinema’s young generation, Ninh Dương Lan Ngọc and Diễm My 9x.

One of the movie’s two producers is 38-year-old actress and director Vân, who has acted in some Hollywood blockbusters, including Bright which also features Will Smith, Joel Edgerton and Edgar Ramirez; and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: Sword of Destiny together with Michelle Yeoh, Donnie Yen and Jason Scott Lee. Vân also plays a Resistance gunner in Star Wars: The Last Jedi, scheduled to premiere soon.

According to this multi-talented woman, her ambition was to present a part of Vietnamese culture – the áo dài – to the world through the movie.

“In the movie, Thanh Mai, the owner of tailor shop, tells her daughter Như Ý that ‘áo dài is the source of our family business’. And the áo dài is the source of Vietnamese culture and the source of this movie,” she said at the premiere last week. “With all experience that I accumulated in Hollywood, I want to contribute to the development of Vietnamese cinema.”

To be able to represent an áo dài maker, working to present the ‘quintessence’ of the traditional women’s dress, Vân and some other cast members had to study with áo dài designer Sĩ Hoàng, who even opened an áo dài museum in HCM City.

All the áo dài worn by the cast were created by HCM City-based designer Thủy Nguyễn, who is also the movie’s co-producer.

Before screening in Việt Nam, The Tailor was presented at the "A Window to Asian Cinema" category at the 22nd Busan International Film Festival 2017 in South Korea last month.

The movie is screened in Vietnamese with English subtitles in cinemas nationwide. – VNS

Traditional dress: A poster of the movie Cô Ba Sài Gòn featuring Ngô Thanh Vân (left) and Ninh Dương Lan Ngọc.

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