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VERTICAL RAY OF THE SUN
aka AT THE HEIGHT OF SUMMER
2000 - Tran Anh Hung
Vietnam / France
66
Opening Shot

Quickly establishing the films key use of sounds we hear birds and an alarm clock buzzing as the opening image is a static shot of a man laying down on a bed. He rolls up and out of bed and awakes his sister sleeping in a nearby bed (the beautiful Velvet Underground song 'Pale Blue Eyes' is playing in the background).

The Film

The Vertical Ray of the Sun is the third film by Vietnamese filmmaker Tran Ang Hung. In just three films Tran has captured a similar vision of two of cinemas greatest masters (Robert Bresson and Yasujiro Ozu). Though little plot or even character details are revealed throughout most of this film, The Vertical Ray of the Sun stands as a flawless portrayal of art and by the time the film reaches its end the viewer is left blown away by the experience. Ultimately The Vertical Ray of the Sun is a poetic cinematic experience of feeling. The audience must participate and feel the emotions of the film through its imagery and sound. Rather then being told, we are shown, as it is a film of tone and mood. The images here are absolutely breathtaking to behold and when combined with the simplistic narrative the result is a mysterious yet beautiful film. The story focuses on three sisters (lead by Tran's gorgeous wife Nu Yen-Khe Tran, who has starred in all of his films) living separately in modern-day Vietnam. Within their lives Tran captures a beautiful display of images, colors (notably the various uses of greens!), and perhaps most importantly sounds (which are reminiscent of Bresson's mastery with sound). The film concludes with an elegant moment of beauty (captured by a lovely closing song). The Vertical Ray of the Sun is poetic art through cinematic images and sound, which is so affecting you can actually feel the film as if it is physically touching you.

The Filmmaker

After a few shorts films Vietnamese filmmaker Tran Ang Hung directed his feature debut at the age of 31. A film of undeniable grace, beauty and simplicity The Scent of Green Papaya immediately earned the talented filmmaker world praise. The film was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film and France's César Award for Best First Film as well as a special prize at Cannes, plus and award from the British Film Institute. Tran's sophomore feature delved more into genre filmmaking. Shot in a documentary style Cyclo again dealt with social politics and the Vietnam war, which his previous film masterfully used as a subtle backdrop. Like all his work there is a silence to it that makes it absorbing but Cyclo is far more brutal in its violence then Tran's debut film or his third film (Vertical Ray of the Sun) which moves in a peacefully simplistic tone and style. The film masterfully blends what Tran established in his first two films along with his cinematic influences (Robert Bresson and Yasujiro Ozu being very notable). Among the trademarks of Tran's films his his intimate sense of photography and beautiful use of sounds to counter the minimal dialogue. Another is his lovely wife Nu Yen-Khe Tran, who has starred in all of his films to date. After an eight year hiatus, Tran's fourth film (I Come With the Rain, shot in France and in the English language) will finally be released starting in 2009. Tran is also in early negotiations to adapt Haruki Murakami Japanese novel Norwegian Wood.

Images
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Resources
trailer (youtube)      
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