One of the rare Western films to take advantage of the spectacular setting of the temples at Angkor in Cambodia, L'Oiseau de Paradis is directed by Marcel Camus. The French ruled Cambodia until 1954 and are well-aware of its attractions -- and so Camus was prepared when he went in to film the annual boat races in Phnom Penh, the boxing matches, and the royal dancers that are incorporated into the story. The tale itself is relatively simple. A beautiful dancer has two admirers -- one is a young worker whom she has only met by accident, and the other is an unscrupulous businessman. The worker had been training as a Buddhist monk and as his interest in the dancer and the businessman's pursuit of the woman develop, the dancer and the former monk end up at the archaeological site of Angkor. There, Buddhists still worship in the temples and it is in this setting that the businessman kills them both. Reincarnation being accepted as truth in Cambodia, the story implies that the ill-fated young couple would be joined together in the future. This film was made only six or seven years before fighting began in Angkor and the French were forced out of the area.
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