Three Seasons (1999)



Critic Consensus: No consensus yet.

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With sweeping directorial vision and a powerful poetic narrative, Tony Bui has created an enormously impressive feature debut about the "new" Vietnam. Weaving three stories (really four) into a striking pictorial tapestry, Three Seasons contrasts the traditional to the modern in a nation in the chaotic throes of transition. We meet four ordinary people living almost as strangers in their own land: a young girl hired to aid a reclusive spiritual master; a cyclo driver who becomes obsessed with a proud and ambitious prostitute; a very young boy hustling lighters, gum, and cheap watches from the case around his neck; and an American Vietnam vet searching for the daughter he has never seen. What ensues is images of lives struggling to find both place and meaning in a nation which won the war but may now be losing a piece of its soul. The rich diversity of American independent film is deepened this year by the Southeast Asian, melodramatic style of Bui's work. The usual hyperbole about craft and art can't describe the immense visual sensibility of this film. It's not an overstatement to say that more arresting lyrical beauty may not appear in another American film this year. As the first American film to be shot in Vietnam since the war, with a remarkable Vietnamese cast and emotionally provocative acting by the stalwart Harvey Keitel, Three Seasons achieves a pinnacle of excellence that is rare in filmmaking today.
PG-13 (for thematic elements)
Art House & International , Drama
Directed By:
Written By:
In Theaters:
October Films


Harvey Keitel
as James Hager
Tran Manh Cuong
as Teacher Dao
Zoe Bui
as Lan
Diem Kieu
as Singing Lotus Woman
Minh Ngoc
as Truck Driver
Luong Doc Hung
as Man Who Chases Lan No. 1
Tran Duy Long
as Man Who Chases Lan No. 2
Bui Tuong Trac
as Man Who Buys Lotus Flowers
Huynh Kim Hong
as Woman on the Balcony
Michael Salamon
as Man Who Steals Case
Nguyen Van Son
as Shoeshine Boy
A. Lu
as Street Guardian No. 1
Hong Phu Quang
as Street Guardian No. 2
Duong Tan Dung
as Cyclo Race Promoter
Thach Thi Kim Trang
as Little Girl
Ho Kieng
as Restaurant Owner
Quang Hai Ngo
as Man in Taxi
Hong Khac Dao
as Parlor Manager
Oliver Thai
as Parlor Friend
Othello Khanh
as Phuong's Drunk Friend
Lola Guimond
as Phuong/Amerasian Daughter
Nguyen Thanh Son
as Cyclo Race Official
Nguyen Thi Ngoc
as Teacher Dao's Servant
Nguyen Thi Lien
as Grandmother
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Critic Reviews for Three Seasons

All Critics (31) | Top Critics (5)

Stronger in visual imagery than in ideas or characters, Bui's impressive feature debut, which is set in Vietnam, won the Sundance Film Festival jury and audience awards.

January 8, 2007


July 18, 2003
Movie City News

A light and lovely movie that satisfies, but goes away quickly.

Full Review… | April 11, 2003
Combustible Celluloid

An extraordinary cross-cultural masterpiece shining with incredible images, a keen sense of place, and a reverence for the incredible yearning of ordinary people.

Full Review… | March 3, 2002
Spirituality and Practice

Bui has no sense of pacing or momentum.

Full Review… | May 1, 2001
Matinee Magazine

A fascinating look at life in modern-day Vietnam.

Full Review… | December 31, 1999

Audience Reviews for Three Seasons


A well-made ensemble drama setting in today's Saigon, directed by Tony Bui, a Vietnamese American filmmaker. It is a rare film that is produced by American foundation with almost all main crews being American (cinematographer, composer, etc.), but has strong and authentic mood of Asian (Vietnamese) films. Technically some parts of the film are a little bit unskillful, but the story is very well-polished and has overwhelming power. It has not new but solid structure in which several short stories interconnect. It focuses on lives of ordinary citizens (cyclo driver, prostitute, flower seller, street children, etc.), but they are, I think, a little bit idealized too much (especially conclusions). Vietnamese casts are all great, and only an American cast, Harvey Keitel, who also produces, shows very impressive performance even though he does not appear much in the film.

Naoya Kugimiya
Naoya Kugimiya

The best shot movie I've seen in a long time. Most of the story is told through film's gorgeous cinematography.

Kervin Smith
Kervin Smith

If you want to see a movie about Vietnam that is not soley based on the conflict, I suggest you watch this movie.

Lisa Tran
Lisa Tran

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