Tran Anh Hung’s film is beautiful. Its colors are still, hushed, and
translucent. Limpid greens and abundant yellows, deep blues, the pearly
whiteness found inside papayas. The film’s tones and textures seem to slow
the storyline, drenching it with a kind of denseness, a sense of ongoing
Set in Saigon during the 1950s and early ’60s, _The Scent of Green
Papaya_ is necessarily conflicted beneath this calm surface. Before the
American War, Vietnam was not divided into North and South, but its class
and political systems were already in trouble. Continue reading
A “cyclo” is a bicycle-drawn taxi similar to a rickshaw, and, in this story, the nickname of an 18-year-old boy trying to scrape together a living in the desperate poverty of Ho Chi Mihn City. Cyclo lives with his grandfather (Le Kinh Huy) and two sisters (Tran Nu Yen-Khe and Pham Ngoc Lieu), and drives his taxi for a bitter woman (Nhu Quynh Nguyen) who devotes most of her time to her mentally unstable son (Bjuhoang Huy). When the pedal-cab is stolen, Cyclo is forced into a life of crime to repay the debt and falls in with a group of petty thugs led by a self-styled poet (Tony Leung Chiu Wai). What Cyclo doesn’t know at first is that the poet is also a pimp, and he’s been using his romantic wiles to lure Cyclo’s older sister into a career as a prostitute. Cyclo was directed by Tran Anh Hung, whose breakthrough film was the acclaimed drama The Scent of Green Papaya.
— Mark Deming, All Movie Guide Continue reading
The Vietnamese director Tran Anh Hung’s first two features, ”The Scent of Green Papaya” and ”Cyclo,” were partly inspired by the lives of his parents. The first, shot entirely on a soundstage in France, conjured an elusive dream of Saigon in the twilight of French colonial rule. The second, filmed in present-day Ho Chi Minh City, was a brutal, surreal nightmare of third-world urban life.
In his new film, ”The Vertical Ray of the Sun,” Mr. Hung moves north to Hanoi — a city whose pace of life seems languourous and stately — and examines, with Chekhovian decorum, the lives of three sisters whose parents have recently died. The film is an oblique, vaguely sorrowful study in domestic emotion, structured around the small eruptions of feeling — tenderness, anger, and joy — that punctuate the slow serenity of daily life.
Mr. Hung, working with the cinematographer Mark Lee Ping-Bin, who shot Wong Kar-wai’s gorgeous ”In the Mood for Love,” composes scenes of such delicate beauty that you almost want to climb into the frame. The dark greens and pale yellows of the city’s foliage and its sunlight have an almost tactile density, and when the scene periodically shifts to the countryside, the sudden widening of perspective and the altered quality of light produce a kind of awe. Continue reading