'The Lady': Luc Besson, Michelle Yeoh on Myanmar's Suu Kyi
French director, writer and producer Luc Besson has a thing for strong women: "La Femme Nikita," the gunslinging heroines of "Bandidas" (Penélope Cruz and Salma Hayek) and, of course, the French national savior Joan of Arc, played by Milla Jovovich in Besson's "The Messenger."
But the heroine of his latest film, "The Lady," wields no weapons other than intelligence, patience, superhuman courage and moral integrity. She is Myanmar dissident Aung San Suu Kyi, the 1991 Nobel Peace Prize winner who led her National League of Democracy to victory in a 1990 election but was then placed under house arrest for nearly two decades by the country's authoritarian military regime.
The film stars Malaysian actress Michelle Yeoh, who has proved her martial arts mettle opposite Hong Kong action star Chow Yun-Fat in "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" and opposite James Bond in "Tomorrow Never Dies." In "The Lady," Yeoh marshals other skills, including her knack for languages, while delivering Suu Kyi's stirring speeches and portraying calm under fire.
In addition to a timely political drama about Myanmar, formerly Burma, "The Lady" is a love story about the uncommon bond that existed between Suu Kyi and her late husband, Michael Aris, played by David Thewlis. An Oxford University scholar and Asian specialist, Aris took charge of raising the couple's two sons in England while his wife was held captive in her homeland, and he worked tirelessly to raise Western awareness of his wife's fight for democracy.
The latest installment in the Envelope Screening Series at the Arclight in Sherman Oaks on Thursday night featured the film and a Q&A session with Besson, Yeoh and Thewlis. Below is an excerpt, with others following next week.
— Reed Johnson
Photo: Michelle Yeoh, Luc Besson and producer Virginie Besson-Silla at the 2011 Doha Tribeca Film Festival in Doha, Qatar, last month. Credit: Alexandra Wyman/Getty Images.