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Anh Hung comes to Ha Noi (April 26, 2004)

Sweetly blended: Actress Tran Nu Yen Khe stars in Scent of Green Papaya.
Sister act: (Right to left) Yen Khe, Nhu Quynh and Le Khanh in a scene from The Vertical Ray of the Sun. — L’Espace Courtesy Photos
Tran Anh Hung’s work offers a sweet blend of colour and sounds, and he is recognised as one of the most acclaimed directors of Vietnamese descent.

Ha Noi cinema buffs can now gain some rare insight into the director’s strong Asian cinematic presence when his films are screened next week.

Feature films include Scent of Green Papaya and The Vertical Ray of the Sun which won Hung international praise and awards, including a Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival, a Cesar for best first film and an Academy Award nomination for best foreign film.

Set in the fifties and sixties, Scent of Green Papaya is a tranquil and beautiful ode to a lost Viet Nam untouched by war.

The story follows the life of a poor country girl in Sai Gon juxtaposed against a family trapped in grief. Ten-year-old Mui comes to work as a maid but becomes a substitute daughter in a family that has lost its only daughter.

The young servant brings hope to a mother and grandmother but after the ne’er-do-well father runs away for the third time with the family’s fortune, they fall on hard times; eventually, her mistress is forced to sell Mui.

Now a woman, Mui goes to the home of a new master whom she has loved quietly since a child. Unable to speak her desire, she shows her affection in every service she performs for him.

The 1992 film which announced Hung’s arrival onto the international scene was filmed in a studio in Paris.

"But," he maintains, "my sensibility is not French; it’s deeply Vietnamese."

This is also reflected in Hung’s most contemporary relationship drama The Vertical Ray of the Sun, which explores the strong Asian values of family respect, love and commitment.

"Vietnamese culture is very important to me because I am Vietnamese and I want to reflect that. I do not have to look deeply to reflect the culture because of my roots," said the 42-year-old director.

Set in Ha Noi in summertime, the film which focuses on three sisters and their shifting relationships with the men in their lives is a rich visual banquet overflowing with lush, artful images that unfold in languorous perfection.

Elder sister, Xuong, married to a photographer, Quoc, owns the cafe where all the locals gather and gossip. Lien works as a waitress in the cafe and lives in an apartment with her older brother Hai.

The two of them spend all their time flirting with one another, before Lien falls for a fellow student. Khanh, the middle sister, is married to a writer, Kien, who is consumed by trying to finish his first novel.

On the anniversary of their mother’s death, the sisters come together to prepare a traditional remembrance feast and talk about their parents’ relationship, the mysterious man in their mother’s life, and their own affairs.

"I work with colour like a painter in my film, but I’m not an artist. I like to take my time to show everything. If I film an apple, I want it to look like you could bite it, to do that you must make the right colour in the background to reflect. Colour is very important," Hung said.

"Music is also something that’s obviously very important to the film. A combination of Vietnamese music along with foreign songs creates a harmonious rhythm for the film. It’s also an inspiration for me to create the scene."

The Vertical Ray of the Sun is screened tonight and Scent of Green Papaya is shown next Thursday at 8pm at L’Espace in Ha Noi.

An evening with director Tran Anh Hung and actress Tran Nu Yen Khe follows the screening of The Vertical Ray of the Sun. — VNS

Reprinted with permission from Vietnam News Agency


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