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Paradise Road

Paradise Road

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    Based on a true story culled from hours of interviews by director Bruce Beresford, the film stars Glenn Close as British socialite Adrienne Pargiter. Alerted to the imminence of an invasion of Singapore in 1942, a group of the wives and children of Allied forces quickly crowd aboard a transport. When the ship is bombed, they end up on the island of Sumatra, where they are captured and imprisoned. Conditions in the camp are predictably brutal: food and medicine are difficult to come by, and the living quarters are squalid. One punishment requires a woman to kneel in the hot sun for hours only to fall on a sharp stake if she tires. Given the situation, Pargiter, who is also a musician, decides to organize the women into a vocal orchestra to help raise morale. Although they lack sheet music, Daisy (Pauline Collins), an Australian nurse, is able to re-create scores from memory. Among the reluctant women cajoled into singing are an Australian nurse, Susan McCarthy (Cate Blanchett); a cynical American, Topsy Merritt (Julianna Margulies); and a young British woman, Rosemary Leighton-Jones (Jennifer Ehle). At the first performance of Pargiter's orchestra, the Japanese guards are so moved by the music that they refuse an order to halt it. Close gives another of her typically strong performances.