The politics grew complicated and the movies became unattractive to directors and stars, which is a shame, because it blunted a tradition of movie journalism ("Salvador" or "Missing") that is largely missing today.
Director John Boorman ("Hope and Glory") returns to it with "Beyond Rangoon," the story of an American (Patricia Arquette) who finds emotional rebirth when she joins the cause of Burmese dissidents fighting an oppressive dictatorship in 1988 Burma.
Arquette plays Laura Bowman, a physician who gives up medicine (along with life in general) when her husband and son are murdered. She takes a long vacation to the Far East with a stop in Burma - one of a handful of Westerners to get inside the country - and winds up getting stuck there when her passport is stolen.
Civil war shuts down the airport, and when circumstances brand Bowman a dissident sympathizer, she finds herself pursued across the Burmese countryside by murderous soldiers.
Boorman stages a series of harrowing adventures and narrow escapes, but he's the kind of director who usually has a more complicated agenda. Once he establishes the particulars of Bowman's psychological condition, he uses the events of the movie in a lyrical and symbolic way to echo her emotional re- awakening and eventually her redemption.
"Beyond Rangoon" is an ambitious movie, and one that doesn't always achieve its lofty goals. Arquette, for instance, never seems to climb out of the enervated state that marks her still-grieving character in the languid early scenes. She remains emotionally fogged-in long after her character decides to rededicate herself to living.
And there's an unfortunate lack of suspense to Bowman's desperate flight across Burma. Her poor, expendable Burmese companions - shot in the head and blown to bits by the dozen - are always in danger. Arquette, on the other hand, is safely protected by the magic narrative force field that protects gorgeous actresses, no matter how bloody the revolution.
BEYOND RANGOON * * 1/2
Produced by Barry Spikings, Eric Pleskow and John Boorman, directed by John Boorman, music by Hanz Zimmer, written by Alex Lasker and Bill Rubenstein, distributed by Castle Rock Entertainment.
Running Time: 97 minutes
Laura - Patricia Arquette
U Aung Ko - U Aung Ko
Andy - Frances McDormand
Jeremy Watt - Spalding Gray
Mr. Scott - Victor Slezak
San San - Tiara Jacquelina
Sein Jtoo - Jit Murad
Parents Guide: R for violence
Showing at: Area theaters