With the brilliant Vietnamese summer as a setting Vertical Ray of the Sun is beautiful from beginning to end. The plot centres around three sisters, two of whom are happily married (or so ... See full summary »
Tran Anh Hung
Tran Nu Yên-Khê,
Nhu Quynh Nguyen,
A little girl, Mui, went to a house as a new servant. The mother still mourns the death of her daughter, who would have been Mui's age. In her mind she treated Mui as her daughter. 10 years... See full summary »
Tran Anh Hung
Tran Nu Yên-Khê,
Man San Lu,
Thi Loc Truong
A young man who struggles through life by earning some money with his bicycle-taxi in Saigon (Ho Chi Minh city) gets contact to a group of criminals. They introduce him to the mafia-world ... See full summary »
Tran Anh Hung
Le Van Loc,
Tony Chiu Wai Leung,
Tran Nu Yên-Khê
In Korea Town Los Angeles, a young man, Kengo, believes he's the son of God - that's what his mother told him since he was a young boy. He spends his days working his dead-end job and ... See full summary »
Soichi Negishi moved to Tokyo to chase his dream of becoming a musician playing stylish, Swedish-style pop. Instead, he finds himself leading the death metal band Detroit Metal City, or DMC... See full summary »
Settle into your chair and be transported to a place both familiar and alien; where a giant shop-girl can barely fit in her store, there's a weird green pod in every bedroom, and terrifying... See full summary »
Upon hearing the song "Norwegian Wood," Toru (Matsuyama) remembers back to his life in the 1960s, when his friend Kizuki killed himself and he grew close to Naoko, Kizuki's girlfriend. As the two try, in very different ways, to contend with their grief, Toru forms a bond with another woman, Midori. Written by
Based upon the novel by Japanese author Haruki Murakami, Vietnamese director Tran Anh Hung boldly translates the story to the big screen with a cast of familiar faces in Kenichi Matsuyama and Rinko Kikuchi in lead roles, but somehow this attempt seemed to float along rather casually into a typical tale of a love triangle, loss and sexuality without much emotional depth. Set in the late 1960s in Japan with a whole host of student turmoil, this aspect of the story got shelved aside to focus more on the personal coming of age tale of Toru Watanabe (Matsumaya) and the women in his life.
So putting aside the various one night stands he benefited from hanging out with casanova Nagasawa (Tetsuji Tamayama), Watanabe has to choose between Naoko (Kikuchi), a girl whom he knows from his younger days when she was the girlfriend of his best friend Kizuki (Kengo Kora) who inexplicably committed suicide, and that of Midori (Kiko Mizuhara putting in a very charismatic performance) who actually had made the first move in getting to know him better, although stopping short of going the full distance given a boyfriend whom we never see on screen.
Depending on your preference and emotional pull toward broad stereotypes of people, the two girls are very much distinct in their personalities, one being an emotional wreck given the loss of Kizuki and spending her time in rehabilitation, which accounted for the many lush, green and white sceneries depending on the calendar month, while the other is a perpetual sunshine, confident, outgoing and attractively lively. It's pessimism versus optimism, although you'd probably understand Watanabe's obligation toward Naoko having spent time growing up together, losing their mutual friend and growing close, not to mention an awkward deflowering process that happened to seal the emotional deal and attachment.
And you wonder if you'd call that love, or attraction even, as opposed to the proposition with another girl who had entered into a crossroads in his life, being stuck in time having to want to care for someone close, versus a new opportunity being presented with Midori's presence. Tran's vision puts one into a deliberately slow paced evaluation as Watanabe struggles to understand his emotional predicament and dilemma presented, where if one doesn't know how to proceed at a forked road ahead, one stalls for time, and stalling is what this film felt like.
But thanks to cinematographer Mark Lee Ping Bin, this allows for plenty of beautiful postcard picturesque shots of the countryside, and many visually stunning captures of emotions of the characters at hand, allowing sensitive, moving moments to come through, and even chances to showcase a long tracking shot set out in the fields which flip flops across the screen as Naoko shares with Watanabe her oft confused state. My favourite however involved that between Watanabe and Midori in a snow filled landscape, cold in scenery but completely filled with the warmth of heart. The cinematography added a boost in the mundane state of characterization, and when things can't move forward, at least your eyes can start to roam at the well crafted technical shots and composition of the film, in addition to the era of the 60s.
The subplots of the rich story tried to muscle its way into the film but ultimately got sacrificed to stay focus on the primary trio, in a tale about finding it tough to let go and move on without being perceived as uncaring. And just when I thought the story had finally found its grounding from which to move off, in comes a deus ex machina moment to help propel it forward, taking off the shine of emotional roller-coaster of the previous two hours, which made it all seem a little futile and a waste. Draw your own conclusions if you will since the film left things unsatisfying open ended, and what you take away from the film, will probably be self reflective. I tried to love this film, but ultimately I can't.
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