The Lady (2011 film)
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|Directed by||Luc Besson|
|Produced by||Virginie Besson-Silla
|Written by||Rebecca Frayn|
|Music by||Eric Serra|
|Editing by||Julien Rey|
Left Bank Pictures
|Distributed by||EuropaCorp (France)
Entertainment Film Distributors(UK)
Cohen Media Group (US)
Golden Scene Company Limited(HK)
|Running time||135 minutes|
The Lady is a French-English co-production directed by Luc Besson, starring Michelle Yeoh as Aung San Suu Kyi and David Thewlis as her late husband Michael Aris. Yeoh describes the film as "an incredible love story" against the background of "political turmoil".
Michelle Yeoh called the film "a labour of love" but also confessed it had felt intimidating for her to play the Nobel laureate. US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton watched The Lady before she met the real Aung San Suu Kyi.
In 1947, when Aung San Suu Kyi is two years old, her father Aung San leads Burma to independence. But soon afterwards, on 19 July 1947, he along with a group of his colleagues is assassinated by a group of armed men in uniform.
As an adult she goes to England, finds a loving husband and has a happy family life. But in 1988 her mother's poor health forces her to return to Burma where her father, Aung San, is still widely remembered.
When she visits her mother in the hospital in 1988, she meets many of the people were wounded during the Tatmadaw's crackdown in the 8888 Uprising. She realises that political change is needed in Burma and is soon drawn into the movement to promote reform. She accepts the role of icon in support of self-determination by the Burmese people and devotes herself to activities in support of goals of greater political freedoms
Suu Kyi founds a political party and clearly wins the 1990 elections. However, the Burmese military refuse to accept the result of the election and moved to bring Suu Kyi under control. She and her family became separated when her husband and children were banned from Burma and she was put under a house arrest for more than a decade. Yet their relentless struggling for Suu Kyi's recognition outside Burma is her guarantee she won't be forgotten and cannot disappear unnoticed.
Due to her family's efforts, she becomes the first woman in Asia to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Yet their separation continues because neither can Suu Kyi attend the ceremony nor can her husband Michael Aris see her one last time before his early death.
Harries' production company Left Bank Pictures began development of the script in 2008 under the working title Freedom from Fear. Harries wanted Michelle Yeoh as the lead and had the script sent to her. The actress was thrilled because she had always wanted to play Suu Kyi. She visited London to meet the couple. The script was as English as its origin, telling the story solely from Michael Aris' perspective but Michelle Yeoh claimed she brought an Asian insight to it.
Her husband Jean Todt (who later on also accompanied the project as accredited producer) encouraged her to contact his country fellowman and friend Luc Besson. She already held Luc Besson in high regard for having directed films about strong women before.
Besson accepted the script immediately while he was aware it would force him to bring in all experience he had collected during his decades of work as a film maker. Besson recognised the opportunity for him to finally present a real life heroine, a female fighter who wields no other weapons than her human virtues.
During the shooting of the film, news broke that Aung San Suu Kyi's house arrest had been lifted. Luc Besson hesitated to believe what he saw on TV because it looked so much like his recent footage.
Yeoh visited Suu Kyi soon afterwards. She would say later it had been like visiting a dear family member.When they discussed the film the actress got the feeling she was still on the film set because Luc Besson had recreated the house so accurately. Aung San Suu Kyi even gave her a hug.
Suu Kyi said she would hesitate to watch the film because she wasn't too sure to be up to it already, although she asked for a copy.
Michelle Yeoh later expressed her gratitude for the pivotal support of Thai partners such as Siam Movies by handing over a donation to the Chaipattana Foundation on the occasion of the film's release in Thailand.
Rebecca Frayn interviewed a number of Suu Kyi's confidants, and based her on the testimonies. While some supporters could afford to feed her information only because she wouldn't disclose these sources, her work was openly appreciated by Suu Kyi's brother-in-law Anthony Aris.
The actress had refreshed her skills as a piano player.
Luc Besson stated later Michelle Yeoh "had perfected Suu Kyi's appearance and the nuances of her personality to such an extent that the lines between the real human being and the portrayed character blurred when they crossed in real life".
Under Luc Besson's helm, his crew also pursued accuracy. Even the cardinal directions were respected when Suu Kyi's home was rebuilt, so that the audience would see the sunrise in the same way as Suu Kyi. Based on satellite images and about 200 family photographs they constructed a precise 1:1 scale model of this house.
Luc Besson himself went to Burma, scouted locations and filmed in disguise.
In order to achieve authenticity Luc Besson engaged many Burmese actors and extras.Some of them, like Thein Win, reenacted their personal memories. Once or twice the filming of a scene had to be ceased because Michelle Yeoh's performance of a speech (in Burmese) elicited outbursts of emotion among extras who had originally heard Suu Kyi.
Andy Harries concentrated on substantiating the British part of his wife's script. He achieved authenticity of the happy time in Suu Kyi's life, when she lived with her family in the United Kingdom. Their flat was also recreated on a sound stage, although the film includes scenes shot on location in front of the house itself. The scenes showing Michael Aris as moribund cancer patient were also shot on location in the actual hospital.
David Rooney (The Hollywood Reporter) praised Thierry Arbogast 's cinematography for "boast(ing)" handsome visuals, the South Asian landscapes nicely contrasted with the gray stone structures of Oxford." Asian Week's Annabelle Udo O'Malley evaluated the film as "certainly worth seeing" for its "beautiful cinematography" and its soundtrack. David Stratton (Australian Broadcasting Corporation) said about Michelle Yeoh's embodiment of Suu: "Suu, beautifully played by Michelle Yeoh, is the epitome of grace and calm, and her long-suffering supporters follow her example." 
Melissa Silverstein – (indieWire) described "Michael's campaign to get Suu the Nobel Peace Prize to raise her visibility and protect her safety" as one of the film's highlights. She emphasized hereby the scene "of one of her sons accepting the award on her behalf as she listens to ceremony on a radio thousands of miles away". She found that scene "moving". Julia Suryakusuma (The Jakarta Post) admitted she had been reduced to tears while watching "The Lady".
But the film received also negative reviews. English critics often appreciated the efforts of the leading actress, Michelle Yeoh, and the performance of English actor David Thewlis while criticizing director/producer Luc Besson. American critics joined the criticism of Luc Besson. Review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes gave the film a rating of 34% based on 65 reviews, with an average score of 5.2./10
Robbie Collin of The Telegraph called the biopic, 'a pale imitation of an inspirational fighter for democracy,' while Roger Ebert gave it two and a half stars, citing the strength of Michelle Yeoh and David Thewlis' performances but suggesting that Besson should have stayed away from the biopic genre.
Alex von Tunzelmann (The Guardian) demonstrated another attitude by complaining that "accounts of the assassination specifically mention that Aung San was seated and did not even have time to stand before the squad fired 13 bullets into him". Summer J. Holliday (Working Author) defines "The Lady" as "a synergy of the harsh reality of modern military occupation and the effect it has on parties of either side".
In Asia, where people are more familiar with the true story behind the film and therefore also understand its delicacy, the reception was obviously different. Here Michelle Yeoh and Luc Besson were invited to academic discussion. The University of Hong Kong explained that "the movie provides a context for us to explore the issues of democracy and freedom and the related issues of humanities" when they announced a screening including a following discussion with Luc Besson, Michelle Yeoh and Professor Ian Holliday.
It is distributed by EuropaCorp throughout Continental Europe.
In the UK The Lady is distributed by Entertainment Film Distributors. Cohen Media Group, the U.S. distributor of the film, had a one week limited Academy Engagement theatrical run in Los Angeles on 2nd-8 December 2011. Moreover there has been an exclusive screening at the Asia Society in New York.
In Asia The Lady was closer of the International Hua Hin Film Festival where Michelle Yeoh declared she planned on visiting Burma again. The screening had such a packed house that eventually a second screen was provided.
In Burma a great number of pirated versions are distributed privately.
- "Director Luc Besson takes a wildly divergent turn from his usual action fare to direct The Lady". Retrieved 2011-01-16.
- "Produced by: Virginie Besson-Silla, Andy Harries". Retrieved 2011-05-23.
- "Luc Besson directs from a script by Rebecca Frayn.". Retrieved 2011-05-23.
- "THE LADY was written over a period of three years by Rebecca Frayn.". Retrieved 2011-12-21.
- "Michelle Yeoh is 'The Lady'". Retrieved 2011-20-12.
- "David Thewlis says he cried over The Lady script". Retrieved 2011-12-21.
- Smith, Ian Hayden (2012). International Film Guide 2012. p. 119. ISBN 978-1-908215-01-7.
- Petty, Martin. "Their love story has been played out on the big screen, with Malaysian star Michelle Yeoh playing Suu Kyi in a 2011 film "The Lady", as she is affectionately known in Myanmar". Reuters. Retrieved 2012-04-23.
- Barton, Laura. "Luc Besson called me out of the blue one night when I was at home, painting. I didn't even know he had my number. So I was surprised, and even more surprised to be given an offer – I want you to play a lead in my new film.". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 2011-01-16.
- Zeitchik, Steven. "In "The Lady," Thewlis plays the loyal husband of Suu Kyi (Michelle Yeoh) who stays behind in England raising their children while his wife leads a crusade against repression in her home country". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2011-01-16.
- "This is the story of Aung San Suu Kyi and her husband, Michael Aris". Retrieved 2011-05-23.
- "Yeoh described the movie as "an incredible love story that has political turmoil within," referring to Suu Kyi’s relationship with her husband, Briton Michael Aris.". Retrieved 2011-05-23.
- "The Lady est une histoire d'amour hors du commun, celle d'un homme, Michael Aris, et surtout d'une femme d'exception, Aung San Suu Kyi, qui sacrifiera son bonheur personnel pour celui de son peuple". Retrieved 2011-05-23.
- "Besson’s The Lady has been described as an epic love story about how an extraordinary couple and family sacrifice their happiness at great human cost for a higher cause.". Retrieved 2011-20-12.
- "Michelle Yeoh — The Lady". Retrieved 2011-20-12.
- Pennington, Matthew. "Hillary Rodham Clinton says she watched the movie, "The Lady," as she flew to the military-dominated country in December on the first trip there by a U.S. secretary of state in 56 years.". The Huffington Post. Retrieved 2012-04-23.
- "her father, Aung San, the founder of modern Burma, was assassinated by his rivals in 1947". Retrieved 2012-01-24.
- "It is true, as shown in the film, that Suu Kyi met many of the injured in the hospital where her mother was being treated and that this began to trigger her political consciousness". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 2011-01-16.
- Barber, Nicholas. "She does not have any personal political ambitions but as the daughter of Aung San, who negotiated Burma’s independence, her support has has great symbolic value, so when the junta sets about massacring student protesters, she consents to put herself forward as an opposition leader.". The Independent (London). Retrieved 2011-01-28.
- Lampert, Nicole (9 January 2012). "her husband and children who were thrown out of Burma when she was put under house arrest". Daily Mail (London). Retrieved 2012-01-24.
- "Aung San Suu Kyi has spent nearly fifteen of the last 21 years under house arrest in Burma". Retrieved 2011-05-23.
- Lampert, Nicole (9 January 2012). "She was the first Asian woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize". Daily Mail (London). Retrieved 2012-01-24.
- "Her husband died in 1999 in Britain, and in the final stages of his battle with cancer the Myanmar junta denied him a visa to see his wife.". Retrieved 2011-02-05.
- Brown, Mark; Simon Hattenstone (19 December 2010). "Aung San Suu Kyi's tragic love and incredible life come to the big screen". London: guardian.co.uk (Guardian News & Media). Retrieved 28 June 2011.
- Thomas, Liz (28 February 2008). "Left Bank plans £5m Myanmar film". Broadcastnow.co.uk (Emap Media). Retrieved 28 June 2011.
- "The actress said there are few iconic Asian women that could be portrayed in film and so it’s truly a “blessing” that “The Lady” landed on her lap.". Retrieved 2011-20-12.
- "Michelle Yeoh has revealed that she was always keen on playing the role of Burmese activist Aung San Suu Kyi.". Retrieved 2011-05-25.
- "The actress flew to London to meet Frayn and her husband, producer Andy Harries.". Retrieved 2011-20-12.
- "When I read the first draft it was Michael's story, from his point of view, his life in Oxford... We worked on it and it became their two stories.". Retrieved 2011-02-05.
- "You were instrumental in getting this made and took it to director Luc BESSON. Why? – Yes, Luc [Besson] is very good friends with [my partner] Jean Todt.". Retrieved 2011-02-05.
- "It was Yeoh who took the project to Besson’s company EuropaCorp, which is fully financing". Retrieved 2011-05-23.
- Marshall, Andrew (17 December 2010). "In fact, she came to me with the script". Time. Retrieved 2011-02-04.
- ""Nikita, Adèle Blanc-Sec, Leeloo, dans Le Cinquième Elément... Luc a toujours eu un penchant pour les personnages féminins très forts", explique l'actrice.". Retrieved 2011-05-23.
- "J'ai 50 ans, et je sais que je n'aurais pas su réaliser ce film à 25", avoue le réalisateur. (I am 50 years old now and I feel I would not have known how to substantiate this film when I was 25)". Retrieved 2011-05-23.
- "the heroine of his latest film, "The Lady," wields no weapons other than intelligence, patience, superhuman courage and moral integrity ('The Lady': Luc Besson, Michelle Yeoh on Myanmar's Suu Kyi)". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2011-19-12.
- "I thought someone had stolen the footage I’d just shot, because Michelle looks so much like her. But it was news footage for a story telling us she was free.”". Retrieved 2011-01-08.
- Middleton, Jim. "Kim Aris sauntered in with his guest: none other than Michelle Yeoh of "Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon" fame who was in Rangoon to research her role as his mother in the film "The Lady". '". ABC Online. Retrieved 2012-04-23.
- "Later, during a break in filming, Yeoh visited Rangoon to meet with Suu Kyi. "It was like visiting a family friend,"". Time. 27 December 2010. Retrieved 2011-02-04.
- "Later, during a break in filming, Yeoh flew to Rangoon to meet with Suu Kyi. "It was like visiting a family friend," Yeoh says.". Time. 27 December 2010. Retrieved 2011-05-23.
- "Michelle Yeoh discusses film role with Aung San Suu Kyi". BBC News. 7 December 2010. Retrieved 2011-20-12.
- Itzkoff, Dave. "She just opened up her arms and gave me the biggest hug. '". The New York Times. Retrieved 2012-04-23.
- "Myanmar Deports Michelle Yeoh After Suu Kyi Movie", Associated Press via Yahoo News (June 27, 2011)
- "Both Besson and the 48-year-old Hollywood actress met Ms Suu Kyi in Rangoon soon after she was freed in 2010 after almost 20 years in detention". The Daily Telegraph (London). 8 November 2011. Retrieved 2011-19-12.
- Child, Ben (8 November 2011). "She said she was not yet ready to watch the film, which deals partly with the deaths of her father and British husband, but asked Besson to send a copy nonetheless.". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 2011-20-12.
- "Michelle Yeoh, who's in Thailand right now to promote her latest film 'The Lady,' hands over a 100,000 baht donation from M Pictures Company and Crown Tech Advance Public Company Limited to the Chaipattana Foundation to help Thai flood victims to repay the kindness she received while filming in Thailand.". Retrieved 2011-02-05.
- Smith, Damon. "Screenwriter Rebecca Frayn interviewed the people closest to Kyi and, over the course of three years, she crafted the script for this fascinating tale of one woman's brave stand against the military junta in Burma.". The Independent (Belfast). Retrieved 2011-01-28.
- "The Lady was scripted over three years by screenwriter Rebecca Frayn, who met with key figures from Aung San Suu Kyi’s entourage". Retrieved 2011-02-04.
- Frater, Patrick. "she managed to get in touch and somehow inspired Anthony Aris to tell the story. There are also several other people who have been involved, but who can never be credited.". Film Business Asia (Hong Kong). Retrieved 2011-02-05.
- "Yeoh studied 200 hours of video of Suu Kyi and learned Burmese for the role.". Retrieved 2011-19-12.
- "Yeoh marshals other skills, including her knack for languages, while delivering Suu Kyi's stirring speeches and portraying calm under fire. ('The Lady': Luc Besson, Michelle Yeoh on Myanmar's Suu Kyi)". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2011-19-12.
- "The actress also revealed that she relearnt how to play the piano and learned how to speak Burmese to prepare for the role". Retrieved 2011-19-12.
- Yun, Tan Kee. "Already svelte and athletic, the 49-year-old former Bond girl lost another 10kg to play the slightly gaunt Nobel laureate in The Lady.". Asia One. Retrieved 2012-04-23.
- Yun, Tan Kee. ""Prior to filming, I had met up with her younger son Kim," she said. "He looked at me and remarked: 'My mum is a lot slimmer than you!'"". Asia One. Retrieved 2012-04-23.
- Adams, Cindy (15 December 2011). "The silk and cotton costumes are Burmese". New York Post. Retrieved 2011-20-12.
- "the actress had perfected Suu Kyi's appearance and the nuances of her personality to such an extent that the lines between the real human being and the portrayed character blurred when they crossed in real life.". Retrieved 2011-19-12.
- Adams, Cindy (15 December 2011). "Luc: “From family we have 200 pictures of her house. From the sky’s Internet satellite images, we measured everything and rebuilt her house to the exact replica. The same millimeter. The orientation’s precise — even where the sun rises and sets on it.”". New York Post. Retrieved 2011-20-12.
- Adams, Cindy (15 December 2011). "Luc: “We shot in China, London and, secretly, 17 hours in Burma where it’s forbidden. In a T-shirt, pretending to be a tourist, not a professional, I’d say loudly, ‘Is it allowed to take a picture here?’ I photographed with a small disc". New York Post. Retrieved 2011-20-12.
- "The sets — Suu Kyi's dilapidated house, her cell in Rangoon's Insein jail — are the results of meticulous research; many of the cast are from Burma.". Time. 27 December 2010. Retrieved 2011-20-12.
- "The realism often overwhelms exiled actor Thein Win, who not only plays an NLD member but is one. He attended party meetings with Suu Kyi before fleeing Burma in 1991. And he wept real tears during the scene in which Yeoh as Suu Kyi bids farewell to her sons before her incarceration.". Time. 27 December 2010. Retrieved 2011-20-12.
- Schwankert, Steven (11 November 2011). "Luc came up to me and said one of the Burmese cast members was crying the whole time. He was there in the crowd in 1988, and he said 'I was watching Daw Suu (Suu Kyi), and she was in front of me, and now I am standing behind her and she is saying it all again.'". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 2012-05-01.
- Clarke, Andrew (5 January 2012). "We obtained permits to shoot in front of the actual house they'd lived in". Variety. Retrieved 2012-05-01.
- Gibbs, Ed. "Portrait of a lady". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2012-04-23. "The hospital you see in the film, that's where her husband died, it's the real hospital. She knows we went very close to the truth. She told us. She said: 'I want to see the film when I'm courageous enough.'"
- Rooney, David. ""The Lady" does boast handsome visuals, the South Asian landscapes nicely contrasted with the gray stone structures of Oxford.". The Hollywood Reporter (Toronto). Retrieved 2012-05-06.
- O'Malley, Annabelle. "With beautiful cinematography primarily shot in Thailand and a choice soundtrack, “The Lady” is overall an engaging film that is certainly worth seeing". Asian Week (San Francisco). Retrieved 2012-05-06.
- Stratton, David. "Suu, beautifully played by Michelle Yeoh, is the epitome of grace and calm, and her long-suffering supporters follow her example.". Australian Broadcasting Corporation (Canberra). Retrieved 2012-05-06.
- Silverstein, Melissa. "One of the high points of the film is Michael's campaign to get Suu the Nobel Peace Prize to raise her visibility and protect her safety. He succeeded in 1991 and there is a moving scene of one of her sons accepting the award on her behalf as she listens to ceremony on a radio thousands of miles away.". indieWire (New York). Retrieved 2012-05-06.
- Suryakusuma, Julia. "If you watch The Lady — the sumptuous biopic and celebration of Suu Kyi, starring Michelle Yeoh — bring a towel. I had to make do with my shawl to wipe the tears streaming down my face". The Jakarta Post (Jakarta). Retrieved 2012-05-06.
- "The Lady". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 22 May 2012.
- "The Lady, review". The Telegraph. Retrieved 22 May 2012.
- "The Lady". RogerEbert.com. Retrieved 22 May 2012.
- Uhlich, Keith. "Luc Besson crafts a dutiful biopic of Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi". Time Out Chicago (Chicago). Retrieved 2012-05-06.
- von Tünzelmann, Alex. "In fact, accounts of the assassination specifically mention that Aung San was seated and did not even have time to stand before the squad fired 13 bullets into him". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 2012-05-06.
- Holliday, Summer J. ""The Lady" is a synergy of the harsh reality of modern military occupation and the effect it has on parties of either side.". Working Author (Hollywood). Retrieved 2012-05-06.
- "the movie provides a context for us to explore the issues of democracy and freedom and the related issues of humanities.". University News (Hong Kong). Retrieved 2012-05-06.
- Evans, Ian (2011). "The Lady premiere – 36th Toronto International Film Festival". DigitalHit.com. Retrieved 2012-01-09
- Lyman, Eric J. (26 August 2011). "Luc Besson's 'The Lady' Named Rome Film Festival's Opening Film". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 2012-02-04
- Kemp, Stuart (28 September 2011). "Luc Besson's 'The Lady,' Starring Michelle Yeoh and David Thewlis to Close Doha Tribeca Film Festival". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 2011-20-12.
- "The Lady recently had a special advance screening at the Asia Society in New York — the film will be commercially released in February". Retrieved 2012-01-24.
- "French film director Luc Besson (R) and Malaysian actress Michelle Yeoh pose during a photocall to promote his movie "The Lady" in Berlin, January 10, 2012. The movie opens in German cinemas on March 15.". Retrieved 2011-01-16.
- "Coming soon The Lady". Retrieved 2012-01-10.
- Schwankert, Steven. "The festival opened with Taiwanese epic Warriors of the Rainbow: Seediq Bale and closed with The Lady, with both director Luc Besson and star Michelle Yeoh in attendance.". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 2011-02-04.
- "Suu Kyi biopic wraps Hua Hin film". Retrieved 2011-02-04.
- MacKinnon, Ian (2011). ""The country is truly beautiful and I want to go back," said Yeoh, speaking at the inaugural Hua Hin International Film Festival, where The Lady was the closing movie". The Telegraph (London). Retrieved 2012-02-04
- "we’re pleased that we had a packed house for The Lady and had to open a second screen". Retrieved 2011-02-04.
- Frater, Patrick. "Lady scores on Singapore debut". Film Business Asia. Retrieved 2012-04-23.
- ""The Lady", the latest film by Luc Besson with Michelle Yeoh released on Feb 9". Retrieved 2012-02-20.
- "Pirate copies of The Lady have flooded the streets of Yangon as vendors push the boundaries of new-found freedoms under a new government.". Retrieved 2012-02-05.
- Portrait of a lady (Ed Gibbs)
- The untold love story of Burma's Aung San Suu Kyi (by Rebecca Frayn)
- Interview with Luc Besson (Time Magazine)
- Heeding the call of history: Michelle Yeoh on playing political icon Aung San Suu Kyi Bangkok Post
- The Lady at Michelle Yeoh Web Theatre
- Interview with Michelle Yeoh: Malaysian-born Hollywood star Michelle Yeoh talks about her “role of a lifetime” – playing political icon Aung San Suu Kyi in Luc Besson’s new film The Lady Reader's Digest
- Realistic, exotic look for 'Lady' (Eye on the Oscars: Art Direction, Costumes & Makeup) Variety
- The Lady at the Internet Movie Database
- The Lady at Rotten Tomatoes
- The Lady at Box Office Mojo
- Official Trailer
- Michelle Yeoh and Luc Besson on "The Lady" (Interview)
- BBC on "The Lady"