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Movie Review: The Vertical Ray of the Sun

Story: Thirty-eight year old Franco-Vietnamese director Tran Anh Hung (The Scent of Green Papaya) has delivered another fluid, visually exciting film. The action (and I use the term very loosely here because it is a slow paced film) takes place during the month between the anniversaries of the deaths of the parents of the three females (sisters) protagonists. Two of the three sisters are married (one to a photographer, and one to a writer) and the other sister still lives at home with her brother. Shot entirely in Hanoi, cinematographer Ping-Bin who was also responsible for the exquisite interior shots of In the Mood For Love creates a warm screen filled with shot after shot of delicious atmosphere that you can feel, taste and smell. The film is about family, fidelity (or the lack thereof) and reality versus perceived memory. If you want a break from all of the summer shoot-em-ups and digitalized film-making take a look at this glorious gem.

Acting: Everyone is wonderful. The youngest sister, Tran Nu Yen Khe, is the wife of the director and unfortunately is the weakest link.

Critters: Two Vietnamese pot bellied pig babies, one caged bird and some livestock.

Food: Food is a major player in almost every scene. Each meal is prepared with sensual delight. I got very hungry watching this fine film.

Visual Art: Some bad student art work.

Blatant Product Placement: None.

Soundtrack: Mostly Lou Reed, an odd choice.

Opening Titles: Very well done introduction to the film. The credits start to roll as two of the characters start their slow morning awakening routine.

Theater Audience: A handful of foreign film aficionados. The theater was practically empty, yet a couple chose to sit directly behind me. It gave me the creeps. There was also one guy in the first row. Now why would someone sit in the first row of a movie that has subtitles? His head was bobbing back and forth as if he were watching a tennis match as he was reading.

Quirky Meter: 3

Squirm Scale: These is a quasi-incestous implication between the youngest brother and sister. Creepy.

Predictability Level: Medium

Oscar Worthy: Perhaps.

Nit Picking: No complaints.

Big Screen or Rental: Big screen. But if it is not coming your way you could rent a lot of other films about Vietnam. There are, of course, many films devoted to the nightmare of the Vietnam War. There is probably a whole rack of them at your local video store. You could also rent his other film The Scent of Green Papaya and the wonderful Indochine.

Length: 115 minutes.