The Vertical Ray of the Sun (2000) Poster

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9/10
Bathed in color and pastoral beauty
howard.schumann14 February 2005
In Tran Anh Hung's lovely tone poem The Vertical Ray of the Sun, three sisters Lien (Tran Nu Yên-Khê), Suong (Nhu Quynh Nguyen), and Khanh (Le Lhanh) on the eve of memorial dinners for their departed parents reveal previously hidden details to each other about their marital infidelity. It is the end of summer in Hanoi and the atmosphere is languid. These are not the mean streets of Saigon in Tran's Cyclo but the elegant abode of Hanoi's artists and intellectuals, devoid of urban decay, intimately bathed in color and pastoral beauty. The opening scene sets the mood. The youngest sister, 19-year old Lien slowly awakens in the apartment she shares with her brother Hai (Quang Hai Ngo). As Hai does push-ups, lien stretches, her graceful Tai Chi movements beautifully choreographed to the rhythm of The Velvet Underground.

They joke about the fact that outsiders see them as a couple as they walk hand-in-hand through the markets, but Lien does nothing to discourage this perception and is shown crawling into bed with her brother each night. The sisters operate a café and the conversation is as steamy as is the food they are preparing for the annual memorial dinner for their departed mother. Cinematographer Mark Lee Ping-Bin who filmed Flowers of Shanghai and In the Mood for Love washes the scene in a glow of different shades of green as they joke and tell stories about their longing to fry the male anatomy in garlic. The discussion veers to a discussion of their mother's possible infidelity with a fellow student but they are reluctant to admit that their parent's relationship may have been less than ideal.

Gradually we also learn about the sisters' marital problems. Suong is married to Quoc (Chu Hung), a botanical photographer. Since they had a miscarriage four years prior, he has had a secret life with another woman in the remote Bay of Halong. In one meditative scene in a boat with an old fisherman, Quoc sums up the meaning of the film, "One should live where one's soul is in harmony, where it is in accord with its surroundings". When he is away on trips visiting his second family, Suong carries on an affair with Tuan (Le Tuen Anh) out of a need to feel loved and wanted. Khanh's husband is Kien (Tran Manh Cuong), a writer who is working on finishing his first novel.

After finding out that his wife is pregnant, he almost betrays her in a Saigon hotel, but remains faithful. Lien, meanwhile, naive about sexuality, has a boyfriend and thinks she is pregnant simply because she had sex one time. The family deals with these problems together, viewing them as an opportunity for forgiveness and growth rather than confrontation. Vertical Ray of the Sun is a sensual experience that unfolds in its own time, a pace geared to an Asian timetable not a Western one. It is a film of ineffable beauty but can be confusing on first viewing with multiple characters, frequent jump cuts, and time discontinuity.

Individual scenes stand out in memory: Khanh singing a traditional Vietnamese song alone in the garden and Kien's loving discovery of her secret (how gratifying it is to see a romantic scene between married couples); Lien's slow dance in her apartment to The Velvet Underground, her long black hair glistening in the sun; and Lien's playful seduction of Hai interrupted by his request for boiled sweet potatoes. Though concerned with extra marital affairs, the film is not about infidelity but the intrusive effects of modern society on Asian family life. In Vertical Ray of the Sun, he has created an antidote -- an aesthetic picture of a Vietnam unsullied by the memory of war, a culture of nature and tradition, encompassing the Buddhist value of compassion and the Confucian ideal of harmony. It may exist, however, only in his vision.
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10/10
Dreams do not only come during sleep...
Julian Luna14 June 2000
This movie was one long, slow, blissful dream. I can hardly explain how much I have been moved by this movie. It exists beyond what is projected on screen, appeals to some of one's innermost sensations, feelings almost forgotten, like the simple pleasure of waking up in the morning, opening one's window, and breathing, deeply. Since I live in Paris, I was lucky enough to meet Yen (the interpret of Lien) and Hung (the director) and talk to them personally. And I understood where the movie's deeply heartfelt nature came from : simply, it was the expression of the greatest sincerity and sensitivity of all. Hung and Yen are both just like this movie, just like the Scent of Green Papaya too : fascinated with simplicity, and constantly looking for beauty in its simplest form, in the most obvious gestures of everyday life. Waking up had always been a routine for me. After seeing this movie, it has become a pleasure renewed every morning. Never before had I understood the worth of movements executed slowly, fluently, harmoniously, almost like a ceremony. A la Verticale de l'Eté is not an obvious movie, where everything is suddenly thrown at the spectator who needs do nothing but open his mouth and swallow whatever is shoved down his throat. This demanding film asks a total commitment, asks you to completely forget everything else than the movie. But if you let yourself sink into the movie, if you make that initial effort, this film will reward you with much more than mere images and temporary distraction. I truly believe that this movie will forever stay in the hearts of those who have seen it. I have seen it four times so far, and can't get fed up with it. There is one problem about this movie though : it makes it particularly hard to get back into the "real" world... That is probably why I keep going, again and again, to see this movie. I think I like to believe that life can be a dream sometimes.
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Beautiful
paperbasket23 January 2003
As a Vietnamese, I have to begin by thanking Tran Anh Hung for all that he has done for Vietnamese cinema. He has beautifully brought to the world an image of Vietnam other than that of some evil Communists in American war movies.

Now onto my review of this film.

It is a beautifully shot movie. The fresh, cool colors through the movie really do transport the viewer to somewhere similar to a tropical paradise. The story is slow but the writing is smart. Things are happening even though you feel like nothing has happened. The film is about 3 sisters and their adventures in love. The two older are married and are facing infidelity in their relationships. The youngest is still dating other men, although her close relationship with her brother only suggests some disturbing truth.

The acting is the movie is restrained but mostly good. My only problem is with Tran Nu Yen Khe as the youngest sister. I know that she is the director's wife, thus she appears in all his movie. But is this necessary, Tran Anh Hung? She is certainly a beautiful actress, but her Vietnamese is horrible. While everyone in the movie is speaking flawless, authentic Vietnamese, she struggles as if reading with a monotone in an accent that clearly indicates that she never learns Vietnamese in Vietnam. This has completely thrown me off during the movie. Whenever she speaks, I am reminded that this is a movie and not real. In Mui Du Du Xanh, the first film of Tran Anh Hung, I don't have a real problem because she speaks a total of maybe 3 lines and those are from reading a book so it doesn't bother me. But in Cyclo, while the actors and actress who play her family speak with a specific accent from a province in Vietnam (Quang Nam), she again speaks in a monotone with an accent of a foreigner. And it happens again here in this film. This problem is equivalent to an actor who plays an authentic Texan and speaks with a European accent. It just doesn't make sense. Of course, to people who don't speak Vietnamese, this is not a problem. But to a Vietnamese like myself, I can think of many other actresses who are much better for the job.

But don't let my ranting about Tran Nu Yen Khe discourage you from seeing this movie. It will be one of the most beautiful film you have ever seen and I think you will like it.
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9/10
Stunning, sensual and unique
wliebold30 December 2002
A visually-stunning look at the lives of three modern-day Vietnamese sisters and their families, living in Hanoi. The intersection of modernism (in particular, Western) influences alongside tradition is a theme. This does not appear to be a rigid Stalinist society but an austere but comfortable developing one. A sound track which mixes Lou Reed and traditional Vietnamese music accentuates the way tradition and modernity meld in this setting.

And it is the setting which takes your breath away. Even the interiors are visually rich with colors and textures. The film's use of rain, heat, and flowing water all add to the sensuality of the country and the characters.
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9/10
An enchanting film
Pteromysvolans2 January 2004
This movie reminds me very much of the plays of Anton Chekhov. I.e. it is completely against the traditional aesthetics of American style movies where action, fantasy, humor, over-acting, special effects and the goal of getting as much dollars and viewers as possible are usually the main message there is... So, no wonder that some of the reviewers of this movie here, don't seem to have got at all what this movie is about...

Nothing special happens in the movie, but in the end you feel that you've seen something worth seeing, and even learned something new about human life and social relations.

The acting is good and realistic. The life stories told are nothing but happenings of ordinary life, but the director makes them into beautiful lyric poems that touch your heart.

The beautiful scenery shown alone makes this film worth watching. 9-10/10
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Perfect!
cowforpeace12 September 2004
I would like to point out that the perfection of this movie lies in the imperfection of its story. To those who have said it just dribbles off at the end with no resolution, I personally think thats why its so brilliant! It is very rare that we get the see a slice of life like this--- one so beautiful, enrapturing, and yet TRUTHFUL. Life doesn't have perfect endings and beginnings. Its great to see that movies don't have to either.

That said, my absolute favorite scene is the one with all three sisters and the sweet potatoes! What's yours?
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10/10
Inner-outer beauty and much more.
Peegee-39 July 2001
This film (as The Scent of Green Papaya) is to me pure visual poetry. As with a poem it offers its impact slowly and through its suggestive images that come at you subtlely and with enormous grace. It's not a story of "and then and then"...it unfolds like a beautiful fan, by degrees...giving the viewer a chance to internalize each moment. And I was particularly impressed by the repetition of certain actions...the turning of two people, with a significant look; the clipping of nails...such small details reflect a sensibility that brings the seemingly unimportant moments in life, the often repeated ones into a whole new light, into consciousness and value. This, for me, is a glorious and appropriate use of film, which is, after all, a visual medium. The director, the actors, the cinematographer are to be commended on this masterpiece!
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10/10
A celebration
s0ulf00d4 July 2002
I wish the director of the movie was a good friend and that I could pick up the phone and tell him what a marvelous film it is. I love The Vertical Ray of the Sun and purely for the reasons of aesthetics. Although I agree that the story-line leaves something to be desired but that's not important to me. I loved the brilliant art direction of Vertical Ray. This film could be a masterpiece.

The use of colors and imagery of the setting is done in a manner so astonishingly beautiful that one wonders if such a film could be made. That such a place indeed does exist. The Vertical Ray of the Sun draws its strength not from cleverness, titillation or intimidation but from its beauty, simplicity and goodness.

The most "illuminous" scene, as one reviewer puts it, is the one between Lien and Khanh when she tells him with her eyes lowered and with a wonderful smile on her face that she's pregnant. Another thing I loved about it is that it brought me closer to the 'Far' East. I live in India and Vertical Ray was perhaps my first movie from that part of the world. It was wonderful watching another country mirror the same values that we hold so close to our heart. Like that prayer scene... the respect they show for elders, the whole family living together. This makes me like these characters immensely.

Having said that, the film could have done with a few less affairs. I have no problem with the love scenes. I think they have been portrayed with exceptional beauty. What I found a little unpalatable is the fact that a middle-class Asian family was shown uncharacteristically active while pursuing happiness outside the conventional boundaries. I understand that the Director, though from Vietnam lived in France most of his life. I think we face this problem even in India. I'm talking about filmmakers who live in the west and come back every year or so to make movies on OUR lives, interpreting it the way they want it. Anyway, that's a tiny little thing.

I found a revealing quote from the art director on aesthetics of the movie: "Taking a cue from the director, a context, or a story, you begin to think in terms of red, green, yellow or blue... the choice of sets, their conception, their arrangement takes on a particular resonance and the design becomes an actor in its own right." Vertical Ray of The Sun is a celebration.
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Beautiful and Slow
drq17 October 2001
As the opening credits rolled at the cultural center in Hawaii where I saw this film I noticed it was produced by canal+. "Ah, a french production. I may as well make myself comfortable because not much of anything will happen for the next two hours" I thought to myself. I was only partially right. "Vertical Ray of the Sun" is one of the most languid movies I have seen in a long time, taking it's time to slowly introduce us to the characters and give us a glimpse of their world. There is beauty, drama, sorrow, joy but as with most french productions none of it has any semblance of a plot line. There is no build up, no exposition, and no conclusion. At one point the movie ends and the credits roll. What there is, is a great deal of magnificent cinematography. If you have the chance to view this film take some time to appreciate the way light plays in the background, the contrast of color between foreground and background, the composition of each shot. Then again don't worry about taking your time.. the movie will give you plenty of time to stop and admire.
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It's about almost nothing.
jdesando31 October 2001
If you understood that "Seinfeld" was about nothing, then you will accept that "Vertical Ray of the Sun" is about almost nothing. For instance, Hanoi is awash in color and brother and sister listen to Lou Reed while they exercise their bodies and exorcise their incestuous longings. Nothing else happens.

Meanwhile 2 other sisters are working through affairs that threaten their marriages but resolve in the film to uncertainty about their future. What is certain is the "violent and passionate undercurrent," as director Tran calls it, with a "mischievous humor to it." I failed to find the humor or the passion, just a ballet of souls languishing in the boredom of marriage or the banality of emotional incest.

Almost certainly influenced by Chekov and his equally subtle 3 sisters, the director feels that "[h]armony, or the art of keeping up appearances, could be the title of the story." That's the real beauty of this melodramatic nap, that passion hidden away from the world disguises everyone involved, so that only a wife could suspect a look or an innocent-looking note. On the surface is a harmony, a café of peaceful meetings owned by sisters whose stories will never be publicly told with passion or humor.

Any movie that calmly shows skin being pulled from a chicken foot or sisters talking furtively about sauteing and eating a penis should be full of passion and humor. It is not. It rather shows the director's appreciation of the Robert-Bresson school of directing where essence comes before adventure, restraint before passion.

Perhaps the director aptly characterizes his movie when he says, ''My thoughts turned back to my childhood in DaNang, remembering the time when I'd be waiting to fall asleep at night, my mind racing from one thing to another, nothing precise. The smell of fruit coming in through the window, a woman's voice singing on the radio. Everything was so vague. It was like a feeling of suspension. If I've ever experienced harmony in my life it was then. It was just a matter of translating that rhythm and that musicality into the new film.''

I vote for "suspension" as this slowly beautiful film's operative word.
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9/10
Stunning visually, great acting, well worth time to see again
jimstevensvend23 November 2007
The director, Anh Hung Tran, does not rush things. I felt like a voyeur much of the time as the characters lived both responsible lives, but had a naughty side that they just could not escape.

Do they just jump into sexual situations or are they restrained by guilt or other voices. This issue of guilt or other voices was a central theme I enjoyed watching develop.

The scenes were visually powerful and sweeps one away from our modern world into the family courtyard where women prepare meals, laugh, relax and live life.

To me, this movie told three stories of women in different stages of life. A young, pampered girl, who lives in a bit of fantasy world and beginning to explore her sexuality - if only with the most available man who is her brother. The male characters were important, but frequently were more trappings to allow us to peek into the world of women. Very well done.

Her older sister, who is married, trying to have a child while worrying about her husband and larger family.

The eldest sister, who has faced much more and looks for life solutions that work. She only wants to keep the family moving along and keep her husband from taking his extramarital affair too seriously. She is the matriarch of this little family now that their parents have passed along and she struggles on different levels. When challenged by the second sister to share her views of having an affair, she is careful to only share enough, but holds back to maintain her role as the elder sister. Very well done.

The best scene in this movie for me was at the end when the three sister are dealing with a real disaster brought by that silly little sister.

I loved this movie and watched it twice. It is one I will return to see again just for the visual beauty of scenes and languid movement of many scenes. It was my first Anh Hung Tran movie and I must find more of his work.
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7/10
Mua he chieu thang dung (2000)
SnakesOnAnAfricanPlain10 April 2005
Warning: Spoilers
One of my favourite kind of films. One where nothing really happens, plots are set up but never really explored. This may seem like a lazy way to make a film, but it also perfectly reflects real life. Life where feelings are felt, but never acted upon. Real repressed and confused people, who live ordinary unexciting lives. 'At the Height of Summer' focuses on three sisters and the men in their lives. The oldest sister has a husband, unknown to her he has a child by another woman and sees her often. This eldest sister is also having an affair. The middle sister lives a normal life with her husband who is struggling to complete his latest novel. Finally we have the youngest sister who is attracted to her brother, and lacks focus in her life. The three sisters, and their men, live out their normal lives and we get the sense that this film could in fact exist anywhere in their life, and is not a specific time. The scenery is beautiful, as are the cast. The use of light and rain is stunning. This is a film that is easy to look at but hard to experience. The performances are very realistic, no one over reacts or over-acts. People are subtle and thoughtful in their actions, confrontation not being a major theme of the film. The music and the songs chosen (Lou Reed mainly) are well placed, and are used as the perfect background music. A few brief moments of comedy, such as the youngest sister's 'revelation' that she is pregnant, or the her and her brother chasing each other round the apartment, are scattered about, but don't detract from the drama aspects. If you like your films slow, real and simply stunning you could do a lot worse than this. Some points seem rather too slow and the lack focus the film expresses sometimes let it down, but it is a great film.
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Stunningly beautiful cinematography
nuyawka21 May 2004
Unlike some of the other comments seen here, I thought this movie was a real gem. The Director of Photography gets kudos on this one, as every scene was like viewing fine art. Yes, certainly, there were times when the writer/director was asking the audience to put more meaning into a scene than was warranted, but overall the plot was enjoyable and based on true human emotions. The movie also invoked a certain mood of longing, that was aided by weather variations (especially rain) and the overall set design. I'd recommend this movie to anyone with a discernible eye and an appreciation for the attempt/accomplishment at making grand strokes on film. It is eye-candy all the way, and the bevy of beautiful people certainly doesn't detract from that.
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8/10
Three Sisters
pserve10 January 2001
If you have seen and liked very much (as I did) The Green Papaya Fragrance /L'Odeur de la Papaye verte, 1993, Caméra d'Or at Cannes Festival for the Best First Film, French Academy Award for Best First Film, 1994 and nominated at the Oscars), young French-Vietnamese director Tran Anh Huong's first film and big hit (he was born in France after his parents had left Vietnam in the 1970's), you will enjoy A la verticale de l'ete.

Even if this third film may be not be seen as perfect as his first one, it nevertheless has big attractiveness and an often irresistible beauty (his second film, Cyclo, in spite of its Golden Lion Award at Venice Festival, was a critical and commercial flop). In this new film, the director's fascination for food is obvious again. Food as it is and as it must be prepared (more than its ingestion or taste)... Tran Anh Hung sayed in interviews that he tried to let his "female side" speak. He did it well actually. And this achievement gives the three sisters beautiful characters and portraits (in the same way than Mui's, the young then older girl in L'Odeur de la Papaye verte). Let's say right away that the sisters are acted by three excellent and beautiful actresses. The close-ups on their faces, the way Tran shoots Lien's languorous waking-ups and her slow body-stretchings in her brother's bed where she finds herself every morning "without knowing how" or "just because she was cold at night" she says, all those shots are marvellously sensual ! The alternation between contrast and fusion in colour and shades, sometimes pastel and sometimes bright, the music and the songs (some Lou Reed's old classic ballads lulling Lien's waking-ups, and beautiful scores by Ton That Tiet) add to this film's aestheticism. A LA VERTICALE DE L'ETE was first screened at the 2000 Cannes International Film Festival. A worth seeing film !
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8/10
Beautiful and engaging.
benjaminconvey2 October 2001
This film really works because the beauty of its characters, their faces, their rituals, the water they bathe in, the food they eat, the pacing, the framing and the use of sound and silence is woven so masterfully and with such purpose that you are really drawn in on all levels.

One IMDB commenter mentioned the film's cliched moments as if they are a flaw of the film; cliches are everywhere and completely unavoidable. The story itself has many cliches in it (the wife finding evidence of her husband's infidelity by rummaging through his jacket, for example) but the portrayal of the character's lives in this film rings so true that cliche is excusable: after all, look at your own life and you'll spot hundreds of cliches every day.

Admittedly, the cliche in question (a pan to a statue of a family ancestor after a tense moment between the characters) was more a cinematographic aspect than a plot aspect, but nevertheless merely being a cliche is not reason enough to avoid using it in a film and I can't see what the point is in pointing out one solitary cliche! I did not find a problem at all with the moment in question because it served the mood of the piece.

Nor is their a lack of character development. To know a character in a film, you must observe everything: the way they talk, how they move, what they say, what they do, how they interact with other characters, not JUST listen to (or read in subtitles) their dialogue. A lack of dialogue is not the same as a lack of character development. Many of the long, largely-dialogue-free sequences were the most memorable of the film (the morning exchanges between Lien and Hai (if I have his name right) and the scene dealing Quoc's confession of infidelity to Suong) and contain some of the most extensive character development of the whole film.

In response to another commenter, I also don't understand the notion that a lack of extreme conflict results in an uninteresting story, and again the statement that there IS no conflict in the film's early stages is simply a falsity.

No matter how much discussion one engages in though, the only real judge of wether a movie is good to you is wether or not you enjoyed it, and that is why I can say The Vertical Ray of the Sun is such a great movie: I enjoyed it immensely, and walked out of the cinema in a beautiful, happy mood. The film revitalised my psyche and had a profound affect on my outlook on films in general. I highly recommend you watch it to make up your own mind and ignore all these niggling comments.
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A treasure from Vietnam
jandesimpson10 May 2003
Unlike his many admirers I have been slow in getting to grips with the work of the Vietnamese director Tran Anh Hung. His first film "The Scent of Green Papaya" had a certain lyrical charm but I ultimately found it rather bland. His second, "Cyclo", was the complete reverse, a work of anger and violence, with all the punch of films like "La Haine" and "The Outsiders", but somehow sharing their nihilism and lacking the compassion to be found in much stronger works such as "Los Olvidados", "Les Princes" and "Boyz N the Hood". However there is no doubt in my mind that with his third film, "At the Height of Summer", Tran has at last achieved artistic maturity with a work that must rank among the finest of recent world cinema. In the sense that it is a very quiet piece with a small canvas of characters, it has more in common with "Papaya" than "Cyclo". Like "Hannah and her Sisters" and the Taiwanese "A One and a Two" is is spatially framed by anniversaries, although whereas Woody Allen and Edward Yang follow the course of their characters through one year of their lives, here the action occupies a single month starting with the family preparing the anniversary meal for their departed mother and concluding just before a similar event is about to take place in memory of their father. During what becomes a pivotal month in their lives, three sisters and their brother are forced to face the nature of their relationships. In the case of the two eldest married sisters it is the infidelity of their husbands that they have to come to terms with. The youngest sister however is emotionally immature, sometimes flirting with the notion of an incestuous relationship with her brother and at others fantasising about being pregnant by her actual boyfriend. The brother, the least complicated character in the family, is himself coming to terms with an unfulfilled film acting career in supporting roles that seldom get beyond the cutting-room floor. "At the Height of Summer" is a work where expressions and gestures convey far more than words which are sparingly used. Add to these, carefully chosen settings - the family house in Hanoi, an idyllic bay and a hotel in the former Saigon - and the poetic use of a fickle climate that errupts at one point into torrential rain of Kurosawa-like intensity and you have a film that expresses at every point its creator's love affair with the materials of pure cinema.
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8/10
Important Question
films4225 February 2002
We saw this film yesterday on video & we were mesmerized by its beauty. A wise man once said that the plot summary of a good film is like the plot summary of a good opera -- you'll never "get it" unless you experience it for yourself. This film is certainly a case in point. As others have noted, the plot alone makes it sound like Peyton Place. But that does not even begin to describe...

Here's our question: can anyone tell us the name of the family? We would like to post it in the "Buried Treasures" section our website (Films for Two: The online Guide for Busy Couples = www.films42.com) in the "Family" category. If you know the name of the family, please send it to us by e-mail to films42@msn.com OK. IMDB only lists the first names of each of the characters.

Thanks! Jan
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Beauty is not enough
Dan-3424 December 2000
Let it be known that I made a sincere effort to understand and appreciate À la verticale de l'été. I did understand that the director is searching for "beauty in its simplest form" as another comment about this film reads. The film is indeed very beautiful, the joy of waking up and the Tai Shi-thing not the least. My problem is that for the first eighty or so minutes, it lacks a basic conflict. After that, several conflicts surface. If you are able to tell the characters apart, the not-so-obvious conflicts might have been really interesting. However, the movie also lacks a development in the characters personality, or a transition between different states of mind. The individual's development as a result of some kind of conflict is, for me, absolutely necessary for a movie to tell an interesting story. And this is what movies should do, isn't it - tell a story? There just isn't enough of a plot in this one to keep me interested. I am happy for the people who love it. I personally think that it's beauty is not enough. À la verticale de l'été should have been a painting instead of a movie.
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5/10
Dull, with little to recommend it but the visual look...
cglassey28 September 2003
This film compares poorly with "Yi Yi". While it has some visually lovely scenes (especially those around what I think is Haiphong Bay), the film is badly hurt by the lack of meaningful dialog in the film. It is also hurt by a lack of resolution to the action in the film (such as it is).

A good drama not only contains interesting characters who you care about, it resolves the issues that come up in the film in a meaningful way. This film is a bad drama. The characters are largely uninteresting, their problems are not very interesting, and not much resolution is offered in the film to the problems.

For me the sub-plot of the husband of the oldest sister and his second wife who lives on a raft, that was interesting. And the dialog between him and the old man who ferries him out to the island was actually thoughtful. Sadly, that comprises less than 15 minutes of the films running time. For the rest we have these seemingly endless scenes in which the twins (brother and sister) wake up, exorcise, say a few words to each other, and then go across the street for some breakfast. These "wake up" scenes don't lead much of anywhere. Very little is said, nothing happens.

If you are going to do a movie about sexual attraction between a brother and sister then make that movie. Instead all of these scenes are a waste of our time, the brother has no interest at all in his sister and she is actually involved with a man who we see just twice in the film (I think he has two lines of dialog, period). What was the director trying to say in these scenes between the twins? I have no idea.

As far as I can tell, the director really has nothing to say. He shows some traces of visual flair but as a writer, he is a failure. Perhaps he should try adapting someone else's work?

I'm going to praise "Yi Yi" here. That film created problems in the lives of the characters and then resolved them. Things happened, there was forward progress. People grew and developed during the year which the film covers. By contrast in this film, there is no growth, no progress, problems are brought up and not resolved. In drama, problems are resolved with dialog, people talk, they come to an understanding, the world is changed. In this film, people don't talk, or when they do we (the audience) doesn't hear it, or only one person says anything and we have no good idea how the other person thinks about what was said. This film is a perfect example of bad drama.
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10/10
Very good movie, hard to understand for average American
dark_stars200211 January 2005
Excellent movie,subtile and sensual,great story but it seems not to be that clear for average American people, if your the kind of people that loves action movie from Hollywood, cute and sweet American love story forget this movie. Its like Chinese people disliking Won Kar Wai movies in general, finding them ''senseless''. If you liked it i strongly recommend you Cyclo from the same director, little more action but still beautiful. And you should try The scent of the green papaya since its his bigger success maybe you'll like it more. thank you for this movie -Mk- why the .. do i have to fill thoss 10 lines well writing anything will do i guess. peace, make love not war. joy and health for all.
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10/10
Visually Stunning Inner Drama
nonon99_9924 May 2006
Different stories of three sisters juxtaposing together, consist a unique image of love. How does director Tran achieve his philosophical depth and aesthetic revelation is almost a myth. Its interpretation of relationship, its visual beauty, its sound, are totally unique -- very Asian, very Vietnames, and all has its content, nothing arty, nothing nihilistic. You can the live in the characters' lives, smell their food, feel the heat of their room, sense the the mystery of their inner world yet after all, appreciate the beauty of the humanity revealed. This the film no one but Tran can make.

Because of Tran's three Vietnamese subject films, I drew a beautiful picture of Vietnam in my heart. It became a dream place. Many people might do the same. The reality will be different, but now we know a beautiful dream exists. This is the power of movie and what we are looking for in cinema.
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10/10
Beautiful and innovative, if slightly dramatically flat
bastard_wisher11 March 2006
Of Tran Anh Hung's three films, I liked this more than his debut "The Scent of Green Papaya", but not nearly as much as his incredible second film "Cyclo" (which is one of my all-time favorites). Visually, it's incredibly beautiful to look at (maybe one of the most beautiful movies I've ever seen), but at times it stretches the idea of not having a plot almost to the breaking point. Sure films can gain emotional resonance from images alone, and many do, but at the same time having a film almost devoid of conflict of any kind, where the characters are all basically satisfied and happy, at times threatens to lose any kind of dramatic engagement at all (as did the possibly even more subdued "Scent of Green Papaya"). When some drama does actually occur, the tone of the film almost dampens the impact completely, as to not have any kind of affect at all. Still, the film definitely has some truly transcendent moments (although one particularly great scene strikes me as almost too close to being a rip-off of Wong Kar-Wai's "Happy Together"). Tran Anh Hung's use of music in particular is great. The excellent use of Radiohead in "Cyclo" is expanded upon here, using The Velvet Underground, Lou Reed, and Arab Strap (repeatedly) to wonderful effect. All and all, there is no question in my mind that, despite his tendency to downplay the drama in his films almost to the point of irrelevance, Tran Anh Hung is among the most progressive, boundary-pushing contemporary filmmakers out there, at the forefront of expanding cinema beyond narrative into something more elusive and real (with his incredibly lush visuals and careful attention to natural sounds he could almost be considered super-Malick).
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10/10
visually superb, true to life
martinjamescarr11 October 2004
I have worked in Vietnam for a short time, not as a tourist, but visiting the shanty towns, backstreets and homes of my translators, and to me this film was so evocative of the real life situation there. OK so the plot is a bit thin at times, but that's OK, just sit back and drink in the colour, sights, sounds and almost the smells of VN! The food is almost so real you can taste the ginger! Be sure to have booked the table at the Vietnamese restaurant before you see the film because you will want to taste the food immediately you get out. It made me want to be there again, and the women, oh, did I tell you about the women? The sisters are real people, who needs plot when you can just be so close to them, see their beauty and mystery! Just fabulous!
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6/10
a master piece of visual feast
gromit-174 August 2003
I found the movie lacks the charm of `the scent of green papaya', but what a glorious rendition of film colors! I can totally disregard the movie itself and just watch those carefully staged colors shifted from one scene to the next. The art direction clearly surpass the movie itself here. it's too bad that the story couldn't be stronger. To my opinion, Anh Hung Tran is a stronger artistic director than a film director. I wish to see him brings some of his visual styles to Hollywood movies.
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10/10
comment on film, and reaction to some viewer comments
humancreature21 May 2003
First, I have written more extensive comments on "Vertical Ray of the Sun" under the "message board" section on the film's main IMDB page. I assure you that there is more to this film than most of its critics realize, and also there is more to it than the pretty images that many fans of this film see. There are wonderful layers of depth and intelligence that can be found, with effort.

Second, I am saddened by some other comments that portray the East Asian cast/race/filmmakers as somehow a notch below human status.

One user comments, "Why don't they release bad Asian Kung-Fu movies instead of bad Asian Art movies?" thereby suggesting that martial arts films are what Asians are good for, and that they ought not to aspire to the so-called heights of art.

Another comments more disturbingly, "I had a fantasy about a forgotten American G.I., still wandering around in the Vietnamese jungle, who was not aware the war had ended. How he would suddenly pop up in the film, and would start emptying his M16 at the characters in the movie. The red of their blood would make a beautiful contrast with all the green plants in the film........... "

It would give me comfort to know that the authors would re-think their words and feelings (not about the film, but rather the people portrayed in the film). Whether the intention was to be humorous or not, these comments are reflective of a very real attitude of de-humanization and belittlement of Asian people, and of "The Other" more generally.
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