The Vertical Ray Of The Sun

  • 2000
  • Movie
  • PG-13
  • Drama

Tran Anh Hung's third feature since winning the 1993 Cannes Camera d'Or award for his exquisite debut, THE SCENT OF GREEN PAPAYA, was a long time coming, but considering the extreme care with which Tran crafts each film, it's not hard to see why. He directs the way a master chef prepares fine cuisine: Each shot is a sensual, perfectly balanced combination...read more

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Reviewed by Ken Fox
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Tran Anh Hung's third feature since winning the 1993 Cannes Camera d'Or award for his exquisite debut, THE SCENT OF GREEN PAPAYA, was a long time coming, but considering the extreme care with which Tran crafts each film, it's not hard to see why. He directs the way a master chef prepares fine cuisine: Each shot is a sensual, perfectly balanced combination of color and composition. But here Tran's elegant presentation comes at the expense of his ingredients; this slow paced, beautiful film about three sisters and their shifting relationships with the men in their lives is strangely unfulfilling. Suong (Nguyen Nhu Quynh), the oldest, owns a bustling cafe in downtown Hanoi and is married to depressed photographer Quoc (Chu Ngoc Hung), who prefers shooting flowers to people and has been working on a project for the Botanical Society that takes him deep into the countryside and the arms of his mistress, a young woman with whom he's had a son. Suong, meanwhile, has taken a lover (Le Tuan Anh) of her own. Middle sister Khanh (Le Khanh) seems happily married to Kien (Tran Manh Cuong), a writer who's having trouble finishing his first novel. Starved for ideas, Kien decides to investigate a story about his late mother-in-law: During the Japanese occupation of Vietnam, she had some sort of relationship with a man named Toan. Kein's decision to travel to Saigon and uncover the truth about Toan upsets Lien (Tran Nu Yen-Khe), the youngest and least experienced sister. Lien lives with her older brother Hai (Ngo Quanq Hai), an aspiring actor whom she adores to the point of obsession, and would rather continue to believe in the perfection of her parents' love than know the truth about the human heart — a truth her older sisters have learned the hard way. Tran uses long tracking shots to find his subjects as they move past windows and through doorways, and his genius lies in making complex compositions appear effortless: a sisterly embrace results in a perfect arrangement of hair-parts and pigtails as if by accident. As in SCENT OF GREEN PAPAYA, Tran alternates long soliloquies with scenes of near total silence, but an undeniable torpor dulls the drama; only Suong's story is sufficiently developed to be fully engaging. This sleepyheaded atmosphere, augmented by the languid songs of Lou Reed and Arab Strap, hangs so heavily over the film that the viewer is lulled into a state dangerously close to unconsciousness. (In Vietnamese, with English subtitles.)

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  • Released: 2000
  • Rating: PG-13
  • Review: Tran Anh Hung's third feature since winning the 1993 Cannes Camera d'Or award for his exquisite debut, THE SCENT OF GREEN PAPAYA, was a long time coming, but considering the extreme care with which Tran crafts each film, it's not hard to see why. He direc… (more)

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