Sunday, July 16, 2006

The Vertical Ray Of The Sun

(Just watched yesterday. But I'm too lazy to write smt myself. Anyway, I would be thankful if anybody knows where to find the soundtrack)

A review: The Vertical Ray Of The Sun BY ROGER EBERT / September 14, 2001

INTERVIEW: Ray of Light; Viet Nam's Tran Ahn Hung Cyclos His Way to "Vertical"

by Laura Phipps

(indieWIRE/ 07.09.01) -- Vietnamese-born director Tran Anh Hung doesn't play around. His debut feature, 1993's "The Scent of Green Papaya" won the French Cfésar for best feature and garnered a foreign film Oscar nom in the States. Although the "Papaya" takes place in Viet Nam, it was shot entirely on a prepared sound stage in France, where Tran was educated after emigrating there at age twelve. He followed "Papaya" with 1995's "Cyclo," a violent portrait of a rickshaw driver that won the Golden Lion at the Venice Festival.

Tran downshifts a few gears for his latest feature, "The Vertical Ray of the Sun." Shot in Hanoi, this visually sumptuous piece examines the lives of three sisters who are struggling with issues of fidelity and longing in their own lives as they commemorate the anniversary of their mother's death. Suong (Nguyen Nhu Quynh), the oldest sister, is carrying on a silent love affair; middle sister Khanh (Le Khanh) suspects her husband of cheating; Lien (the director's wife, Tran Nu Yen-Khé), the youngest, seems more interested in her brother than the man she's dating. Seeped in vibrant tropical colors, exquisitely choreographed and languorously paced, "Vertical Ray"'s trump card is its playful sense of humor.

indieWIRE caught up with Tran on the road. The soft-spoken, hyper-articulate director spoke about his eclectic sources of inspiration, what sets his new work apart from Wong Kar-wai's, and his national identity (or lack thereof). A sign, perhaps, of his gently persuasive directorial power, he managed to bypass the translator and steer the interview into French. The translation follows.


indieWIRE: What was the inspiration for the film's title, and what does it mean?

Tran Ahn Hung: The difficulty with the title is that the title in French is not comprehensible in English, but gives only the ambiance. The French title is "A la Verticale de l'ffété" from a Japanese poem, and it doesn't say anything really, in reality. It is just a feeling of a certain vertical quality in summer, when the sun is very high in the sky, and there is a sense of heat. The English title was chosen by the distributor as the best thing for the film.

iW: The city of Hanoi inspired the film. Tell me more about that.

Tran: Effectively, it was Hanoi that suggested the idea of the film, because Hanoi possesses a rather particular quality, which is the heat, the slowness, and the formidable sensuality. In Hanoi, the insides of houses are very little, and people do certain activities normally done inside outside on the sidewalk. Under the communist system, there are little common water sources on the street which families share. So people go out in the street, to wash themselves, to wash their vegetables, to wash their clothes, and also to wash the children. So what happens is that when you walk down the street, at night when the light fades, there is a certain sensation of the sweetness of life. The smiles of women who wash themselves, things like that. It's truly very beautiful, very powerful and very sensual. There you go. That's why I made the film there.

iW: During the process of making the film, I've read that the actor's roles were inspired in part by the actors themselves.

Tran: Yes, that's right. I played a little bit with reality and fiction. Certain roles had similarities to the actors' lives. For example the oldest sister [Suong, played by Nguyen Nhu Quynh]: In her life she is an actress, of course, but she also works in a café, and her husband is a photographer. At first, I asked that we use the actor's real name, I wrote it that way in the script, but she preferred that I change her name, because she found that it bothered her. During filming, when a character called her by her real name, that made her get out of character. So I said, okay, you can choose your character's name, and she chose "Suong." There was one actress I wanted for the film, and she accepted but in the end refused, because the role was too close to her life, and Hanoi is too small a town.

iW: The actress who plays Lien [Tran Nu Yen-Kh&eadcute;] is your wife. The relationship with her brother is very interesting, very close. I wanted to ask if there was anything that served as the inspiration for that.

Tran: Oh no, she played a role, that is to say that it wasn't inspired by her real life; it was truly a character she played there. What interested me in this couple was to leave the possibility of incest as a game between brother and sister. It is more a game that she plays, because he is a little bit afraid of that. Very often in cinema, between brother and sister, it's like this: there's incest, and that's the main subject of the film. Or, there's no incest, and no one speaks about it. In life, there are things between these two states -- things are a little ambiguous. In the film, I wanted to create an ambiance like this, very light.

iW: The film has very powerful art direction, almost like a moving painting. It almost reminded me of Wong Kar-wai's "In the Mood for Love." Were the movies made at the same time, or were you inspired by that movie at all?

Tran: The film was made before "In the Mood for Love." Mark Lee Ping-Bin, who was the DP of this film, did
"In the Mood for Love" after this film. It's the same DP. In my film, the physical direction was very different from Wong Kar-wai. With Wong Kar-wai, it was more about the design. With my film, it's more something concrete, purely organic, if you like. That's the difference.

What characterizes the images I was looking for, was that an image must be very concrete, very physical, and that one feels the sensuality evident that the image brings. The images aren't there only to tell the story -- to show one image after another and make the story advance. They are there so the viewer physically feels something. The skin of the characters is very important. All the work with color on the walls, all the colors that surround the characters, must be there to exacerbate the physical feeling of their skin.


iW: Were the buildings and the interiors created specifically for the movie?

Tran: Yes, exactly. With my art director [Benoit Barouh], we worked with already-existing structures and re-organized everything. We re-did all the painting. We were inspired by two American painters, Mark Rothko and [Robert] Rauschenberg. Mark Rothko for the work with colors, and Rauschenberg for the organization of objects in the images.

iW: That's really interesting. I remember Rauschenberg has some paintings of tropical locations that resemble your movie a lot, now that I think of it.

Tran: Yes. I really like the disorder in Rauschenberg's paintings. We tried to create an organization of disorder in the images, placing objects in a certain manner, so that they are truly interesting.

iW: You were born in Viet Nam but you were educated in France. Where would you say is the balance between Viet Nam and France in this film?

Tran: I think it is difficult to respond to this question. Clearly, I am formed by the situation of my life. I've spent the longest part of my life in France. But the question of whether the film is more French or Vietnamese, it's not a good question. What interests me when I make films -- what makes the specificity of my films -- is that because I live in France, all the products of the rest of the world are accessible. I love American painting, I love German music, I love Japanese cinema and literature, I love Vietnamese contemporary literature and painting, and I love Italian cuisine. Therefore I'm made up of all of this, and my films reflect this more than the question of whether the film is more Vietnamese or French. Clearly, because the film takes place in Viet Nam, it's important that I think deeply about what is Viet Nam. And I did that, because if you ask, "Do I feel Vietnamese," I'd say, "Yes." I feel deeply Vietnamese.

iW: The film's soundtrack uses Western music, like Lou Reed, and also Asian-sounding music [composed by Trin Cong Son]. What made you decide to do this?

Tran: My film told the story of several couples' problems, their struggles with fidelity. But at the same time I wanted the viewer to feel the ambiance of this culture. Confucian culture -- the idea of harmony and unity -- is very very important for them. At the same time that I wanted to show problems, I wanted the viewer to sense a certain harmony that floats over the entire film. Therefore, there is a contradiction in the project. So I tried to find the equilibrium in the rhythm of the film. Even before writing the script, I already physically felt the rhythm and musicality of the film. And if I chose Lou Reed ["Pale Blue Eyes," "Coney Island Baby"] and Arab Strap ["Soaps"] and The Married Monk ["Tell Her Tell Her"] for the film, it's because these pieces of music have a long, progressive development that go perfectly with the rhythm that I wanted for the film. The use of American music is a way of acknowledging the presence of modernity in Viet Nam today. In Viet Nam, as you can see, especially in Hanoi, it's a very provincial city, where modernity has not yet imprinted its stresses and demands. It has not entered modernity, it's true. However, there are traces of modernity, like the portable telephone -- and American music.

iW: Are you working on a new film?

Tran: Yes, it's an American film, produced in France. It will not be a Hollywood film. It's adapted from a novel by Hans Anderson, and the title is "Night Dog." It takes place in Portland, Oregon. I'm in the process of writing. I would like to film in May, 2002. The film takes place in 1975 at the time Americans were evacuated from Viet Nam.


  1. Noi chung minh xem phim cua TAH chi thay dep, quay rat trau chuot, mau sac rat tuyet. Con tiet tau thi minh phat buon ngu vi su cham rai (Mui du du xanh), em Yen Khe thi minh rat chan vi thay cung do do (doan nao dong kieu ngay tho nhi nhanh thi ko the chiu noi). Mua he chieu thang dung co Le Khanh minh rat thich.

    Em GT up ST xong ban Linh lai share cho to nhe.

  2. Sao ten nguoi Viet co chu Anh the nao bon Tay cung viet thanh Ahn la the nao, I'm no Korean, maaan :D
    Sao bac Hung cu nhat dinh phai cho vo bac ay dong phim nhi, hihihi :D

  3. Cách đây khỏang 1 năm em có thấy quảng cáo phim này trên báo (có cảm giác như 1 cái phim giải trí hạng xòang nào đấy), mà rồi chả thấy chiếu ở rạp VN. Em nhớ là poster phim rất ấn tượng (ko fải cái hình anh Linh post đâu :P) ... Gần đây khi xem lại Mùi đu đủ xanh, em phát hiện ra Trần Anh Hùng còn làm phim này nữa, thế là thèm đc coi kinh khủng. Anh Linh coi phim này ở đâu thế?

  4. Em co soundtracks phim nay day! Se upload hi hi :D

  5. @Spirit
    Anh coi dia DVD. O HN hay SG ban đầy đĩa này đấy, em Spirit coi đi. Phim Trần Anh Hùng màu sắc đẹp lắm, nhìn rất thích.
    @GT: Hay quá ;;). Em upload lên nhé!!!

  6. Phim này có một đặc điểm là dùng màu sắc rất đẹp, chủ yếu là hai mầu xanh và vàng. Hai mầu này thì tropical thật nhưng lại không giống đặc trưng của HN ngày trước lắm bởi vì HN ko có cái màu xanh tươi roi rói đấy mà em nghĩ là nó vàng và xám hơn một chút.
    Ngoài ra phim có một số điểm không hợp lý về mặt thời gian. Em xem đã lâu nên không nhớ cụ thể nhưng bối cảnh của phim giống những năm cuối 80 hơn là 75. Hơn nữa, năm 75 phụ nữ HN còn mặc yếm không nhỉ?

  7. Em Tôi, sao em lại nghĩ là phim này lấy bối cảnh năm 75 nhỉ, có đoạn nào trong phim nói thế đâu. Anh nghĩ là khoảng cuối 80, đầu 90.
    Với lại phim lấy bối cảnh ở Hà Nội nhưng không có nghĩa là Hà Nội ở bên ngòai cũng giống như trong phim. Cũng như một bức tranh thôi, người họa sĩ có thế sử dụng gam màu theo ý của người đó để làm nổi bật ý tưởng hay cảm xúc của anh ta/chị ta.
    Màu xanh và vàng trong phim (mà chủ yếu là màu xanh) thì anh không có cảm giác tropical mà có cảm giác lênh đênh, không rõ ràng nhưng mặt khác, cũng vẫn mang lại cảm giác hài hòa.

  8. Vay la bac Hung da vi chay theo loi ich kinh te ma gia tri nghe thuat roi, bac chang khac gi cac bac Holywood khac :D

  9. Oi gioi em Yen Khe ma anh Linh khen duoc thi em cung chiu!!! Chua tung thay ai co cai mat chan den the, do dan, vo hon ko tuong!!! Nhat la Mui du du xanh, khi quay be' Mui dang nhin dan kien, xong quay bop 1 cai mat em Khe (be Mui lo'n) trong ngo* ngo*, that la kinh di! Hay Xich lo chang han (mac du minh ko xem duoc het phim nay), luc em nay dung tren cai chau nua chu! Hoac Mua he chieu thang dung, doan nhi nhanh voi anh trai trong phan cam ko chiu duoc!!! Nguoi em nay thi cung do do, trong em nay cuc ky doang. Noi chung la chan chan chan!!!

  10. Le Khanh ban Linh co cam giac dong "gia gia" don gian la vi LK la dien vien kich nen dong co tinh chat kich (theatre) hon la phim nhua, the thoi ;-)

    O, ban Linh post duoc comment bang tieng Viet a?

  11. Vo thi khong phai tra catse chu con sao nua :p

    Viet thanh Ahn la con may day, the doc thanh cai gi :p ? Who cares if you're korean or not, you're all yellow :p :p

  12. Co bac dao dien Holywood nao co' vo*. di diễn khong nhi?.
    Tên em Hoài Anh thì bọn Tây đọc thành gì? Hoài Ăn à, hihi :D.
    Tớ thấy em Yên Khê ấy đóng được đấy chứ, chỉ có cái giọng monotone thôi chứ diễn xuất khá tốt. Có điều cái giọng ấy làm ngắt mạch và distract khán giả khá nhiều, nhất là với khán giả người Việt. Lê Khanh thì đóng hay nhưng không hiểu sao càng ngày tớ càng thấy Lê Khanh đóng có gì đó giả giả.
    Hôm qua tớ xem Days of Being Wild, phần 1 trong trilogy gồm có cả In the Mood for Love và 2046. Thấy cũng được nhưng cũng chậm phát khiếp, chậm hơn cả Mùa hè chiều thẳng đứng. Mùa hè chiều thẳng đứng thì tớ lại không thấy chậm mà thấy nhịp điệu phim khá hài hòa, cân đối.

  13. Hic, sao đang gọi là anh lại chuyển sang gọi là bạn :(
    Em Mưa cài Unikey hay paste từ forum nào đó là đánh được tiếng Việt thôi.
    Mưa nói đúng về Lê Khanh, đúng là Lê Khanh vẫn mang tính chất của diễn viên kịch, nên các động tác hay biểu lộ đôi khi theatrical hay dramatic hơn là cần thiết.
    Em Yên Khê có thể trông đơ đơ nhưng mà sexy đấy chứ. Diễn xuất thật sự tớ thấy cũng OK, mặc dù không fit lắm với các diễn viên có xuất thân từ Việt Nam như Lê Khanh, Như Quỳnh, với cậu anh trai trong phim.

  14. Oi em xem film nay phat buon ngu, duoc cai canh quay dep. Hihi nho doan 3 chi em gai ngoi ngoai san rua bat (hay sao y nhi), roi treu dua nhau la cai "ay" cua bon dan ong ma xao len thi gion phai biet :D (hihi hay la film nao nhi, quen beng roi) :D

    Em YK ma anh Linh cung khen la sexy!!!

  15. Dung la phim nay :P.
    Cai doan em MA nho nhat ve phim ay thi to thay hoi guong guong.
    Ma thay chi em cu che^ em YK nhu the chung to mi`nh rat de tinh ;;).

  16. Chi em ghen ti vi thay anh Linh khen YK la sexy day :D Ngay ca em cung ghen ti ma ;) gi chu em YK mat mong quet voi lai go ma cao em khong noi lam gi, nhung ma cai giong monotone tieng Viet ngang phe phe la em khong chiu duoc :)

  17. Em Yên Khê hợp các vai mà em ấy đóng đấy chứ. Giả dụ em ấy mà tròn trĩnh hơn, phồn thực hơn, hay ánh mắt sắc sảo hơn, thì có khi lại hỏng hết cả phim. So far, các vai mà Yên Khê đóng đều chung một form. Thanh nữ vừa trưởng thành. Hơi ngộc nghệch một tí, nhưng nhiều nhựa sống. Ánh mắt của YK tỏ ra khi say mê điều gì đó thì sẽ theo hết mình. Ngọai diện của YK, mình thấy tóc đẹp và da đẹp. Chân cô ấy hình như cũng dài (cái này có khi bác Linh để ý hơn mình!!). Những cái khác, do góc ống kính có thể biến đổi (góc ống kính trong phim TAH cũng hay rơi vào cận cảnh).

  18. Soundtrack film này là bài "Rừng xưa đã khép", em không biết của ai hát. Nghe nói là Như Quỳnh, vì xem hết phim thì thấy có 1 dòng đại khái là tất cả các bài hát trong fim này đều do Như Quỳnh thể hiện. Quả thật đó là 1 bản "Rừng xưa đã khép" mộc mạc đến không thể mộc mạc hơn, nhưng rất hay và thấm thía. Chị GT ơi, chị post lên đi ạ! :-)

    Lâu lắm không gặp bác Linh, bác nhớ em ko?