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Writer/director Marc-Olivier Louveau (Lou Ma Ho) produces a minor masterpiece set in late 18th century Vietnam. Its mythic qualities almost overshadow the stunning martial arts sequences.

There’s poetry in motion in Marc-Olivier Louveau‘s (A Monk’s Awakening) smartly meditative film, Kōan of Spring. Writer/director Louveau certainly understands what the Buddhist/Taoist tradition is all about. Even his film’s title has a hidden meaning. Kōan is a principle where a paradoxical statement or story should get a resolution. Instead of reasoning the solution out, an individual’s intuitive sense will find it. Viewers who understand the movie title’s meaning will be enriched with a realization that not all answers come forthwith. When they embark on that life-changing spirit quest, the encounters made in that journey may provide the most enriching enlightenment. That includes the Master Troung (Jim Adhi Limas)’s quest to find his replacement. He’s the current “war chief” for his Emperor’s Court.

Kōan of Spring is set in a turbulent time of Vietnam’s history (1791), everybody’s stressed as the country readies for a war – but with whom? Is it because three factions exist within its political regime or is it with the neighbours up North? This detail is not fully expounded upon when Troung is called into service. All he tells the aide is that he’s not ready. He feels that he’s nearing the end of his life and someone else should take up the call to arms. Whomever he chooses will no doubt take part in what this country can become. Without the right virtues, it could be a long war.

When he visits Master Wing (Tapa Sudana), a former General, to see if one of his sons, Tin (Santi Sudaros) and Tan (Chau Belle Dinh), is worthy to be promoted, he will have to decide or keep searching. Instead, it’s his daughter, Lan Fang-Hsuan Chiu) who demonstrates an inner beauty. She understands that there must be a harmony in what fighting means. Martial arts isn’t about domination. Although she has a scar, what Troung finds about her is easily likened to the fairy tale, The Ugly Duckling, and this allusion is wonderfully touching in this gentle film.

From this construction of carefully symmetrical elements to the various types of values each of its characters represent, this movie moves in a mythic quality that would make Joseph Campbell (author of The Power of Myth) very proud.

Even the martial art sequences are beautifully choreographed. Tin, Tan and Lan each have their own style that represents the best of what their inner strength is, and if these characters had different names, maybe their connection with Yin and Yang wouldn’t be so obvious.

Maybe Master Troung is looking in the wrong place to find his successor? In Kōan of Spring, he doesn’t look like someone who will die soon. Perhaps what he’s doing is simply to give his country the peace it so richly deserves rather than an eternal war it does not.

by Ed Sum (Vivascene)


Voyager dans les pays et les cultures lointaines, même en d'autres temps, est facile pour le spectateur au cinéma. Pour les réalisateurs c'est plus difficile. "Koan de Printemps", remarquablement mis en scène par le réalisateur Lou Ma Ho (en réalité Marc-Olivier Louveau) est un de ces films dans lesquels même le plus difficile paraît tout à fait facile.

L'histoire se déroule en 1791 au Viêtnam. Maître Truong, un vieux maître d'armes, doit trouver son successeur dans le milieu des Arts Martiaux.. Il se rend chez un pêcheur, un ancien général, qui est lui-même un Maître. Il a transmis ses connaissances à ses trois enfants. Tout de suite, les deux fils sont en rivalité pour attirer l'attention de Maître Truong; Mais c'est la nature de la fille, pourtant réduite aux tâches ménagères, qui va retenir son attention..

Comme les films de Zhang Yimou ou Ang Lee, l'intrigue est ancrée dans des plans magnifiques de la nature. Le combat, le chemin intérieur, l'harmonie en sont les thèmes. Il s'agit de perfectionnement et de méditation, que l'on peut acquérir dans la danse ou la calligraphie au même titre que l'art du poing ou de l'épée. Les légendes en forment le cadre, et tout semble flotter, hors du temps, en apesanteur. Beaucoup pourrait être dit, mais ici le voyage intérieur est le but.

Thomas Gross 
(Membre du comité de rédaction du journal Morgenweb)
Traduit de l'allemand



"A multi-award award winning film that was more than seven years going from script to screen, Koan of Spring is writer-director Louveau's feature debut. The deceptive ease of the filmmaker's style belittles the long path that this film persevered to come into existence and the fierce independent filmmaking spirit of Louveau. But, the beauty of the imagery and story was well worth the perseverance.
A simple and elegant story of war, peace and the passing of generations. In old Vietnam, the Emperor is preparing an army and country for war as his aging weapons master Truong is trying to find his replacement. Truong's last lingering hope is in the sons of the revered General-turned-fisherman, Wing. The sons Tin and Tan have been dutifully learning from their now retired father but their strengths may not be what Truong needs. It is instead Wing's shy and disfigured daughter Lan, who may have the real power of understanding that a true master would want."

VVF Critic


The Koan of Spring: cinematic zen lecture

Elaborate cinematic lecture on zen philosophy: The Koan of Spring (F/VN/ROK 2013, 74 min.), directed by Marc-Olivier Louveau aka Lou Ma Ho. With Jim Adhi Limas, Fang-Hsuang Chiu, Tapa Sudana, Chau Belle and Santi Sudaros as formidable cast acting with deep peace of mind and precisely measured motions. The allegorical koan (sort of theorem or legend or tale) tells us, that everything in live needs its time to develop or even to take place, that nothing can be forced or sped up and that live always goes in circles. Louveau introduces a completely different to the european spectator's angle of view, he unfolds epic optical tableaus and gives long views as well as deep insights in his archetypical characters. Set in Vietnam in 1791, the year of the beginning French colonization of South East Asia, not one of the 74 minutes of this outstanding film is boring. On the contrary: the story is packed with humour, suspense, even martial art action. The Koan of Spring was shot mostly in the Ile-de-France Region near Paris, France with the actors of different origin doing their parts in each one's native language. Louveau dubbed the film therefore afterwards completly in Vietnamese (with english subtitles fortunately!).

Carlheinz Casterfeld


When I turned 18 back in the spring of 1971, I became eligible for the military draft and a trip to the Vietnam War. Vietnam then was served up each night on the news. It was a place of death and struggle. A cratered and stripped landscape filled with innocents, insurgents, soldiers and destruction. A nation divided and torn to bits by the ravages of war. Its people were caught in the death grip of world politics and something called, “The Domino Theory,” a thousand miles plus from my relatively carefree life in Flint, Michigan. Each image appeared as nothing but a dark cloud on life’s horizon.
I was indeed a fortunate son, as my draft number was never called in the final years of the war. The unwinnable war and waste of life ended in January of 1975, with the fall of Saigon. Vietnam and its people were finally left to heal and rebuild their country.
Fast forward to February 2014. I have been asked to be a part of the committee to choose films for the Capital City Film Festival (CCFF). And I am about to watch the first of many films; some great and some not so great. One of the films worth seeing is a Vietnamese film called Koan of Spring. Don’t let the name fool you into thinking it has anything to do with zombies and English pubs. In fact, it is far from it.
The film is set in Vietnam in the days and times of emperors and martial arts masters. It is a tale of relationships to others and more importantly, to one’s self. It also is a compelling story of movement and vision. The first thing I noticed about this film is how beautifully captured it is. Each shot a portrait of stunning beauty and serenity. The simple and complex are woven like a tapestry into and across the landscapes that the master must traverse, while on his ultimate quest to find his replacement as the emperor’s defender. The sound design, like the cinematography, is full of texture and harmonizes well with the visual richness of this fine film.
Once our master has reached his destination the relationships between a father, his two sons and a daughter intertwine with that of our master. This is where the testing for the next master begins. To tell you anything more would be a spoiler, and therefore I will not say anything more aboutKoan of Spring, other than it has transformed my thinking about the country and people of Vietnam. It is a film worth seeing.

David Such
Partner, Such Video, Inc.


Le Jury de la qualité a aussi voulu donner une mention spéciale à " Koan Of Spring " de Lou Ho (pseudonyme du réalisateur français Marc -Olivier Louveau) dont le film a la capacité de raconter la culture orientale , se combinant avec la notion subtile de l'équilibre du corps et de l'esprit , typique de la discipline Zen et des arts martiaux , et les instincts de l'enfance qui prévalent dans le monde occidental . Il faut souligner la qualité de la bande sonore qui renforce le charme du paysage et le voyage des protagonistes. Ce qu'on nous raconte est au-delà du film : «"C'est la motivation" nous dit Fabio Troiano, membre du jury de la qualité.

(traduit de l'Italien)
 La Gazetta dello Specttacolo 

La Giuria di Qualità ha voluto anche assegnare una menzione speciale a ‘Koan Of Spring’ di Lou Ma Ho (pseudonimo del regista iraniano naturalizzato francese Marc-Olivier Louveau). “Per la capacità di raccontare la cultura orientale, unendo con sottile equilibrio il concetto del dominio del corpo e della mente, tipico della disciplina zen e delle arti marziali, insieme con le pulsioni dell’infanzia che prevalgono nel mondo occidentale. Una sottolineatura merita la colonna sonora che valorizza le suggestioni del paesaggio e del percorso dei protagonisti traghettandoci anche oltre quanto ci suggerisce la cinematografia”, questa la motivazione letta da Fabio Troiano, anch’esso membro della Giuria di Qualità.

La Gazetta dello Specttacolo 

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