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The Vertical Ray of the Sun (rewatch)

Posted by martinteller on July 4, 2013

I’ve done a few of these “list” reviews for rewatches, and I’m growing fond of the format.  My older reviews already give a broad overview of my thoughts on the film, these lists allow me to just focus on certain specifics.  So here is a list of some of the pleasures — mostly sensual, but a few emotional — to be discovered in The Vertical Ray of the Sun:

* The intimate gesture of clipping a loved one’s nails
* Torrential rain that feels cleansing rather than oppressive
* The “satisfying and disgusting” sensation of peeling the skin and talons off a chicken foot
* The innards of fruit
* A kiss through a veil
* Doing your morning stretches to the strains of “Pale Blue Eyes”
* The knowing smile that creeps across your face as you prepare to deliver good news
* Breathtaking greens and golds and blues
* Hugs
* Washing your hands in water poured by someone who loves you
* Singing with family in perfect harmony
* Boiled sweet potatoes hot out of the pot
* Silently gazing into the eyes of your lover
* A pair of wet footprints on the wall above the bed
* A cigarette on a rainy day
* The gorgeous faces of Le Khanh, Nhu Quynh Nguyen and especially Tran Nu Yên-Khê
* Fanning yourself on a hot day
* Rubbing foreheads
* Admiring goldfish
* Polishing brass with your palms
* The sounds of lapping water and birdsong
* Opening the window shutters and basking in the morning sun on your face
* Enjoying a slice of mango
* Slow dancing
* Studying a praying mantis on a big leaf
* Gentle lips on your neck
* Washing your hair with your sisters
* A cool drink that’s bright green
* A private joke
* Imagining what your belly would look like pregnant
* Falling asleep in someone’s arms
* Photographs of plants

That’s not to say that the film is all warmth and beauty, though those elements do account for much of its intoxicating appeal.  It also contains great hurt and betrayal, doubt and deception, buried emotions and unresolved heartaches.  As I’ve said before, it’s a movie about keeping up appearances, but it’s much more than that.  In the final moments, it seems to be a plea to appreciate life and the living, the sensual pleasures of the now.  Experience the simple joys as well as the deep sorrows as life is a lush harmony.  Rating: Masterpiece (98)


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