Thursday, November 12, 2009

Tropical Affairs: Indochine

The Tango Dancers.  standing Robert Raymer, Joelle St-Arnoult, Angela and Lee Clark; seated Anni Nordmann, Andre Cluzaud, Laurence, Seibert Kubsch

In Indochine, Joelle and I danced the tango together. Compare this photo with us in our tacky tourist clothes.

When I was asked to dance the tango in the Oscar-award winning French film Indochine I said no. I told them I couldn't dance. Of course I agreed to be in the movie. Who wouldn't want to be in the same scene with the beautiful and legendary Catherine Deneuve, the pride and national treasure of France, and star of such films as Repulsion, The Umbrellas of Cherbourg, Belle de Jour, The Hunger, and The Last Metro.

At 20 million, Indochine was, at the time, to be the most expensive French movie ever made. It went on to win an Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film and an Oscar nomination for Catherine Deneuve for Best Actress. Set during the 1930’s in Indochina, the story centered around the lives of two women: Elaine Devries (portrayed by Catherine Deneuve), a proud, elegant Frenchwoman who presides over a vast rubber plantation and Camille (Linh Dan Pham), her willful adopted Indo-Chinese daughter.

Originally I was to portray one of the invited guests at a formal Christmas party at the house of Elaine Devries. In this scene, a pivotal one, Catherine Deneuve danced the tango with her adopted daughter Linh Dan Pham, and then exchanged slaps with her co-star and lover in the film, Vincent Perez – in front of Linh Dan, who had recently fallen in love with the same man.

The Christmas party scene, although six minutes long, would take four days to film. Four days with Catherine Deneuve! The scene also called for eight tango dancers who would later join Deneuve and Linh Dan on the dance floor. As things turned out, one of the tango dancers twisted his ankle playing tennis, so the casting people wanted me to play the part. I agreed. I figured the director, Regis Wargnier, would know how to work around one lousy tango dancer.

-Excerpted from “Four Days with Catherine Deneuve” from Tropical Affairs: Episodes from an Expat’s Life in Malaysia.

* Here are links to The Chistmas Party scene and the Racing Boat scene

**Looks like I have another French connection.  Lovers and Strangers Revisited, my collection of short stories set in Malaysia, has been translated into French by Éditions GOPE!

*Update, the 20th anniversary of Lovers and Strangers Revisited, my collection of short stories set in Malaysia

**Update: Book orders for Trois autres Malaisie  E-book orders.  Or recommend it to your friends, especially those who would like to know more about Malaysia or have an interest in Southeast Asia.
Here's a link to the intro and excerpts, and to four reviews of Trois Autres Malaisie in,,, and Petit Futé mag.

***Here’s an update to the French blog about Trois autres Malaisie and my meeting the French translator Jerome Bouchaud in Kuching, and my involvement in a French documentary for Arte (June 2017) on The Sensual Malaysia of Somerset Maugham.

Here are links to some of my author-to-author interviews of first novelists:

Ivy Ngeow author of Cry of the Flying Rhino, winner of the 2016 Proverse Prize.

Golda Mowe author of Iban Dream and Iban Journey.

Preeta Samarasan author of Evening is the Whole Day

Chuah Guat Eng,  author of Echoes of Silence and Days of Change. 


Beheaded on Road to Nationhood: Sarawak Reclaimed—Part I 


aw said...

Hi Robert,
How did you get into acting?

BorneoExpatWriter said...

Actually I'm just an extra. To get involved in films, you got to hear about them, follow up quickly by finding out where the casting section is set up and just go there and fill out the forms, get photographed, keep your fingers crossed that they call you (or call them in case you missed their call) and show up early for the appointed time. Get to know these people, be helpful and don't play the primadonna or they'll remember you for all the wrong reasons, or worse, get thrown of the set!

Sometimes they even give you lines to speak, or even bigger roles, or you get to be in different scenes in the same film.

As a former stage manager for Penang Players, I learned a lot just from watching the actors throughout the rehearsals. Can learn a lot just by watching!