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THE VERTICAL RAY OF THE SUN
(USA) aka AT THE HEIGHT OF THE SUMMER (UK)
aka a LA VERTICALE DE L' eTe (FR)
USA: Sony Picture Classics
UK: Artificial Eye
Cast: Tran Nu Yen Khe, Ngo Quang Hai, Nguyen Nhu Quynh, Chu Hung, Le Khanh, Tran Manh Cuong, Anh Le Tuan, Le Ngoc Dung
Director: Tran Anh Hung
Countries: France / Germany / Vietnam
Language: Vietnamese (English subtitles)
USA & UK: 112 mins
USA Rated: PG-13 for thematic elements and some sex-related material
UK Certificate: PG contains mild sex references
USA Release Date: 6 July 2001 (Limited Release - Los Angeles and New York)
UK Release Date: 24 August 2001
THE VERTICAL RAY OF THE SUN aka AT THE HEIGHT OF SUMMER is the third impressive feature from Tran Anh Hung, following THE SCENT OF GREEN PAPAYA (winner of a Cesar for best first film and nominated for best foreign film at the Oscar's in 1994) and CYCLO. Having already received great acclaim for his earlier work, THE VERTICAL RAY OF THE SUN aka AT THE HEIGHT OF THE SUMMER was shown at Cannes 2000 in the Un Certain Regard section.
Set in modern day Hanoi the film joins three sisters on the morning of the memorial for their mother's death. Suong (Nguyen Nhu Quynh) the eldest sister, owns the restaurant where the memorial dinner is to be held, where she is joined by her second sister Khanh (Le Khanh). The youngest sister, Lien (Tran Nu Yen Khe) lives with her 'big' brother Hai (Ngo Quang Hai), who is only moments older than her. The three sisters are close, sharing secrets and intimate thoughts.
However, each sister keeps a secret from the others. Suong is stifled by her marriage to a husband who travels with work and so turns to a new love. Khanh, happily married, keeps her pregnancy hidden from her siblings, whilst Lien holds a curious fascination for her brother and wishes passersby to think that they are a couple. As time goes on each sister will need to acknowledge and share their secret.
THE VERTICAL RAY OF THE SUN aka AT THE HEIGHT OF THE SUMMER is a truly luscious film, in style and content. Tran Anh Hung manages to convey a very real sense of intimacy between the characters, complimented by the beauty of the mise-en-scene - warm and tropical. With an intriguing soundtrack - from the Velvet Underground to Arab Strap - this film should turn some heads and please those who have already been won over by his style.