Document Type

Book Chapter

Publication Date



Cambridge Scholars Publishing


Trinh T. Minh-ha's film A Tale of Love is loosely based on the nineteenthcentury Vietnam.ese national poem of love, The Tale of Kieu, which recounts the life of a woman named Kieu who sacrifices her virtue and prostitutes herself to sustain her family. The filmmaker re-envisions this story in the immigrant reality of the United States, where the modern-day Kieu, engaged in researching and writing about the impact of her poetic predecessor on the Vietnamese diaspora, struggles for her own survival. She supplements her income as a freelance writer by working as a sex worker and a part-time model for a photographer, Alikan . In her capacity as a researcher, Kieu interacts with Juliet, the editor of a women's magazine. A Tale of Love is a film about the journey of a woman in love with the concept of love. Trinh is quick to point out the problematic nature of the terms "tale" and "love" as she presents them in her film. For her, the "tale" of Kieu is not a simple reiteration of the story of the ancestral Kieu but a fabrication-a created artefact that in its subject matter, love , has the capacity to "activate things . . . [and] in their radical ability ... yield a multiplicity of readings" (Zournazi 1999, 256). This essay builds on Trinh's definitions by going back to the etymological root of "love" in the English language, which is derived from the Germanic forms of the Sanskrit lubh (broadly translated as "desire") (Moseley 2014). I argue that the rather broad possibilities opened up in translation destabilize the term, releasing it from traditional definitions to embrace different possibilities of meaning. In the film's intricate exploration of passion, the politics of the poetics of love becomes visible through various sites of resistance and contextual discourses, such as the use of colour, movement, and space; the use of iconic symbols such as the gaze and the veil; the state of being blindfolded; the implications of perfumes; and the performative value of dance sequences.

Chapter of

Recontextualizing Resistance


Loubna Youssef
Emily Golson


Published with the permission of Cambridge Scholars Publishing.



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