January 20, 2009
|Kicking off last week, this holiday season’s Tet films celebrate love, lament loss, and are filled with both tears and laughs.|
With a range of genres represented – comedy, romance, action and drama – there are pros and cons to this year’s Tet holiday films Giai cuu than chet (Hot Kiss 2), Dep tung centimet (Beautiful by the Centimeter) and Huyen thoai bat tu (Legend Is Alive).
Giai cuu than chet (Hot Kiss 2)
Giai cuu than chet (Hot Kiss 2) is the highly anticipated sequel to Nu hon than chet (Kiss of Death), Vietnam’s highest grossing film ever, which also won the silver prize at the 2007 Canh Dieu Vang (Golden Kite) awards, Vietnam’s answer to the Oscars.
The VND7 billion (US$410,000) film follows the story of a school girl who enlists the help of an angel of death to become popular at her new school. But the angel is young and inexperienced and most of his help backfires. Wacky antics ensue.
Director Nguyen Quang Dung said he wanted to send the youth a message with the film: “Nobody’s perfect in the world, you’d better be yourself,” he says.
Dung also wrote and directed “Kiss of Death.”
Dung, who’s earned the nickname Dung khung (Crazy Dung) for his unconventional directorial techniques, had previously said his goal with the film was to become Vietnam’s highest paid director.
So he looked to Hollywood for inspiration.
“My film is like ‘High School Musical,’ ‘Mean Girls’ and many other films in its portrayal of youth. In addition, I pay homage to the ‘Harry Potter’ films in the depiction of student-teacher relationships. I was also influenced by the social relationships set up in ‘Shark Tale’.”
“Hot Kiss 2” is a musical, like “High School Musical,” and follows a young girl who wants to be popular, like “Mean Girls.”
Dung said he loved the conflict in “Shark Tale,” where the main character is born into a criminal family but has a kind heart. Such was the inspiration for his angel of death character, a young man who wants to live a peaceful life rather than taking lives.
The group of characters are all popular, pretty and talented singers such as Minh Hang, Chi Thien and Dong Nhi.
The film’s female lead Minh Hang is an actress and singer. She became famous for her role in the TV series Goi giac mo ve (Calling back the dream), for which she received a Ho Chi Minh City Television Award in 2008.
But skeptics say that without the superstars’ involvement and frenetic chemistry of the last film’s two leads – supermodel Thanh Hang and Vietnamese American actor Johnny Tri Nguyen – the film might be a disappointment.
One viewer commented, and others agreed: “Hot Kiss 2 is a fun and humorous movie for the Lunar New Year, but it’s just for teenagers.“
Dep tung centimet (Beautiful by the Centimeter)
“Beautiful by the Centimeter” tells the story of a photographer and a model who try to take advantage of each other to get what they want. But of course, they fall in love.
The film’s two leads, Tang Thanh Ha and Luong Manh Hai, have already worked together on the hit TV show Bong dung muon khoc (Suddenly I wanna cry) and are sure to win audiences hearts yet again.
The film’s director, Vu Ngoc Dang, also directed the TV series.
But the chemistry among the artists can’t conceal the vapidity of the film’s content. The artists seem content merely to have a bunch of kissing scenes inter cut with scenes of deception.
Most of the dialogue is annoying, long and boring and the characters only fall in love after Hai’s character (the man) cheats on Ha’s character in order to learn how to kiss.
But no specific details or situations lead viewers to believe their love is true.
All we’ll remember from this empty film are the kisses.
Many viewers said they didn’t even feel the emotion in the kisses, accusing the director of not understanding how to express real affection or feelings.
“The characters seemed to kiss too easily,” said one viewer.
“The film seemed forced. It was almost as if it was completed prematurely. Perhaps the artists used up all their grace in Suddenly I wanna cry. That creative energy is not reproduced and the film seemed rushed,” said journalist and writer Hai Mien.
“The director didn’t have any real goals. He just wanted to make a blockbuster.”
Huyen thoai bat tu (Legend Is Alive)
“Legend Is Alive” has a style all its own. Produced by Phuoc Sang Studio, Saigon Media and Wonder Boy Entertainment for $800,000, the hefty budget has added hype and expectations to the film, which stars Dustin Nguyen.
The film is about a young man who wants to bring his mother’s ashes back to America to bury her next to his late father’s tomb.
Though the film deals with serious issues such as Agent Orange and human trafficking, its also a martial arts flick at heart.
In all three films, the plot often ties itself into knots and problems aren’t resolved well enough, and we therefore fail to relate to the characters.
Reported by Bao Tran
December 2, 2008
|08:18′ 24/11/2008 (GMT+7)|
VietNamNet Bridge – An exhibition area focusing on the Vietnamese film industry has opened at the National Cinema Centre, Lang Ha Street, Ha Noi.
The new space aims to showcase classic Vietnamese films and actors. Posters of landmark Vietnamese films such as Canh Dong Hoang (The Wild Field), Chi Tu Hau (Sister Tu Hau) and Mua Gio Chuong (Season of the Whirlwind) are displayed on the first and second floor of the centre.
Visitors can view over 70 images of artists including People’s Artists, and award winners such as actress Tra Giang, actor Chanh Tin and director Dang Nhat Minh.
Through the posters, audiences can further understand the development of the Vietnamese film industry from past to present.
September 23, 2008
The Vietnamese film masterpiece Bao Gio Cho Den Thang Muoi (The Love Doesn’t Come Back) has just been selected as one of the 18 best Asian films of all times by the news network CNN.
The film, made in 1984 by director Dang Nhat Minh, takes a gritty look at the emotional war. It feels like something right out of the ‘60s, evoking both nostalgia for what was and a profound relief over what has ended. It stars Le Van as the main female character.
Coming home after visiting her husband at the southwestern front, Duyen (Le Van) carries with her an endless pain. He husband had died. On her journey home by boat, she fell in the river and was saved by teacher Khang. Duyen hides the death of her husband from the family, especially from her father-in-law who is seriously ill. To console him, Duyen asks Khang to imitate her husband’s writing and write letters to the family to keep their hopes alive. The letters bring joy to the family, while she suffers alone. To further complicate her life, rumours spread that she and Khang are having an affair.
When Duyen’s father-in-law knows he is dying, he asks Duyen to call his son home to meet him for the last time. And at that moment, the news about the death of her husband cannot be hidden anymore.
The film, considered one of the masterpieces of Vietnam’s cinema, won prestigious national and international prizes including the Golden Lotus at the Vietnam Film Festival in 1985, special prize at the Asia-Pacific Film Festival in 1989, and was also honoured at the International Hawaii Film Festival in 1985.
Minh was born in Hue in 1938 and started his career in 1965 as a documentary maker. He has made dozens of films which have received domestic and international recognition. Minh was awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award in the Republic of Korea (RoK) in 2005.
In CNN’s list of top 18 films in Asia, China ranked first with five films that include In the Mood for Love, To Live, Shower, Infernal Affairs and Still Life, China’s films are followed by Japan’s Shall We Dance?, Ikiru and the . Films made by RoK, New Zealand, India, Chinese Taipei and Iran also made the list. (VNA)
September 23, 2008
Award-Winning Film “The Rebel” Returns for Special Engagements In LA & OC
September 22, 2008 by vaalastaff
AWARD-WINNING FILM “THE REBEL” RETURNS FOR SPECIAL
ENGAGEMENTS IN LOS ANGELES, ORANGE COUNTIES
Dustin Nguyen Starrer Set for Promotional Screenings to Celebrate Official Ultimate Edition DVD Release; Star and Director To Appear
LOS ANGELES, CA – Suspense, action, romance and a touch of black magic ignite when the award-winning THE REBEL, by film director Charlie Nguyen charges back onto the big screen in a pair of special Southern California promotional screening engagements during the month of October.
THE REBEL will be presented on Oct. 3, 7 p.m. at the Bowers Museum’s Norma Kershaw Auditorium, 2002 North Main Street, Santa Ana 92706, telephone: (714) 567-3695; and Oct. 23, 7:30 p.m. at the Edwards Alhambra Renaissance 14, 1 East Main Street (corner Garfield Ave.), Alhambra 91801, telephone (626) 300-8312. Director Charlie Nguyen and lead actor Dustin Nguyen (21 JUMP STREET; HEAVEN AND EARTH) are slated to appear, and will participate in a Q & A session following each screening.
Admission to the Oct. 3 screening is free to the public, with a pre-screening reception at 6 p.m.; admission to the Oct. 23 screening (presented on 35mm film) is $10 general, and $8 students, seniors and Friends of Visual Communications member with valid I.D. Parking information available by calling the respective theaters.
The screenings, organized and presented by Visual Communications, the nation’s premier Asian Pacific American media arts organization and by Vietnamese American Arts & Letters Association (VAALA), Southern California’s leading Vietnamese arts and culture organization and the presenter of the biennial Vietnamese International Film Festival (ViFF), coincide with the ultimate edition DVD release of the film. Copies of the 2-disc set, packed with commentaries by the director and lead actors, exclusive interviews, deleted scenes, trailers and other extras will be available at both screenings for post-screening autograph sessions with the director and actor.
“Throughout its four decade-long history, Visual Communications has been committed to championing the best new work by Asian Pacific American artists,” said Shinae Yoon, Visual Communications Executive Director. “The DVD release of THE REBEL is an important step toward spotlighting new and exciting filmmakers like Charlie Nguyen, and in cultivating a new generation of media artists who will carry the question of Asian Pacific diasporic identity forward.”
Celebrated as the highest grossing Vietnamese film ever made, THE REBEL stars contemporary Asian superstars Johnny Tri Nguyen (The Protector; Spiderman), Dustin Nguyen (“21 Jump Street,” Finishing the Game) and Vietnamese pop star/actress Ngo Thanh Van. Set in Vietnam in the 1920s during the long-standing French colonization, rebel forces emerge to disrupt the foreign control as the French employ elite Vietnamese agents to destroy them. Government agent Cuong (Johnny Nguyen) captures rebel operative Thuy (Ngo Thanh Van), only to escape with her when Cuong’s conflicted allegiances turn on a moment of brutal clarity. Cuong and Thuy are in turn pursued by a power-mad agent (Dustin Nguyen) who harbors personal demons of his own at the hands of French colonizers.
THE REBEL has garnered worldwide critical and popular acclaim since its overflow 2007 World Premiere screening as the Opening Night feature of the Vietnamese International Film Festival. The online movie magazine Film Threat has gushed over the film, proclaiming THE REBEL “So badass it hurts…but it hurts so good”; while Pop Journalism praised THE REBEL as “an achievement of martial arts ability anchored in an intriguing tale of politics, power and betrayal”.
Winner of the 2007 Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival’s Grand Jury Award for Best Narrative Feature and the 2007 Vietnamese International Film Festival’s Audience Award, THE REBEL was soon after acquired for home distribution by The Weinstein Company, and is slated for release on Sept. 30, 2008.
“Both VAALA and Visual Communications are excited to team up to present THE REBEL to the greater Los Angeles and Orange County communities,” noted Ysa D. Le, Executive Director of Vietnamese American Arts & Letters Association. “I’d also like to call for everyone to buy the officially released DVDs to support the filmmakers, so that we could have more great films likeTHE REBEL.”
Founded in 1991 by a group of Vietnamese American journalists, artists and friends, Vietnamese American Arts & Letters Association (VAALA) is a community-based non-profit organization that seeks to promote and enrich arts and culture by, for, and about the Vietnamese communities. VAALA has organized numerous cultural events such as art exhibitions, book fairs, book signings, recitals, plays, lectures, the biennial Vietnamese International Film Festival (ViFF), the biennial Cinema Symposium, the annual Children’s Moon Festival Art Contest and year-long art and music classes. VAALA recently developed smART Program, which offers free art workshops for non-profit youth organizations in the Orange County and Los Angeles areas.
Incorporated in 1970, Visual Communications is a non-profit Asian Pacific American media arts center that promotes intercultural understanding through the creation, presentation, preservation and support of media works by and about Asian Pacific Americans. A pioneer in the national media arts arena, Visual Communications boasts a catalog currently comprising over 100 films and video produced through the organization; maintains a photographic archive of nearly 500,000 historical and contemporary images of Asian Pacific American histories and communities; conducts filmmaker training and education workshops and seminars; and organizes public exhibition events including the annual Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival.
THÔNG CÁO BÁO CHÍ
September 22, 2008
Liên lạc: VAALA, (714) 893-6145; firstname.lastname@example.org
Visual Communications, (213) 680-4462, email@example.com
PHIM DÒNG MÁU ANH HÙNG (THE REBEL) CHIẾU TẠI QUẬN CAM VÀ LOS ANGELES NHÂN DỊP CHÍNH THỨC PHÁT HÀNH BỘ DVD-2-DĨA
*Đạo diễn Charlie Nguyễn và tài tử Dustin Nguyễn sẽ tham dự hai buổi chiếu phim để gặp gỡ khán giả*
LOS ANGELES – Những pha võ thuật hấp dẫn, ngoạn mục, đan vào một câu chuyện tình éo le trong bối cảnh lịch sử của thời kỳ chống Pháp sẽ trở lại với khán giả khi cuốn phim Dòng Máu Anh Hùng được trình chiếu trên màn ảnh rộng trong hai buổi chiếu đặc biệt tại quận Cam và Los Angeles vào tháng 10. Hai buổi chiếu đặc biệt này nhằm quảng bá cho dịp phát hành chính thức cuốn phim dưới dạng DVD gồm 2 dĩa với nhiều phần phụ lục đặc biệt như phỏng vấn đạo diễn và các tài tử chính, dàn dựng các pha võ thuật, những cảnh đã quay nhưng không có trong phim, và trailers. Bộ DVD-2-dĩa do hãng phim Weinstein và Genius Products sản xuất.
Buổi chiếu đặc biệt đầu tiên của phim Dòng Máu Anh Hùng dưới dạng DVD, sẽ được diễn ra vào lúc 6:00 P.M. (tiệc trà) và 7:00 P.M. (chiếu phim) ngày 3 tháng 10 tại Viện Bảo Tàng Bowers, 2002 North Main Street, Santa Ana 92706, telephone: (714) 567-3695. Vào cửa tham dự suất chiếu phim và tiệc trà tại Viện Bảo Tàng Bowers hoàn toàn miễn phí.
Buổi chiếu thứ nhì, bản 35 ly, sẽ được diễn ra vào lúc 7:30 P.M. ngày 23 tháng 10 tại rạp Edwards Alhambra Renaissance 14, 1 East Main Street (corner of Garfield Ave.),Alhambra 91801, telephone (626) 300-8312. Giá vé tham dự suất chiếu ở rạp Edwards Alhambra Renaissance 14: $10, sinh viên, quý vị cao niên và thành viên của Visual Communications $8.
Đạo diễn Charlie Nguyễn và tài tử Dustin Nguyễn (21 Jump Street và Finishing the Game) sẽ tham dự cả hai buổi chiếu để tiếp xúc với khán giả.
Hai buổi chiếu phim đặc biệt này do hai cơ quan văn hóa Visual Communications và Hội Văn Học Nghệ Thuật Việt Mỹ (VAALA) tổ chức. Visual Communications là một tổ chức hàng đầu về nghệ thuật truyền thông (media arts) của người Mỹ gốc Á. Visual Communications tổ chức Đại Hội Điện Ảnh Á Châu Thái Bình Dương hàng năm tại Los Angeles. Hội Văn Học Nghệ Thuật Việt Mỹ (VAALA) thực hiện Đại Hội Điện Ảnh Việt Nam Quốc Tế (Vietnamese International Film Festival – ViFF) cách mỗi năm một lần. Năm ngoái, phim Dòng Máu Anh Hùng vinh dự chiếm giải Grand Jury Award của Đại Hội Điện Ảnh Á Châu Thái Bình Dương ở Los Angeles và giải Khán Giả Bình Chọn tại ViFF. Khoảng 700 khán giả đã đến tham dự buổi chiếu ra mắt lần đầu tiên (world
premiere) của Dòng Máu Anh Hùng khi cuốn phim được chiếu tại đêm khai mạc ViFF. Cuốn phim sau đó được phát hành tại Việt Nam và trở thành một trong những phim ăn khách nhất từ trước đến nay.
“Trải qua bốn thập niên, Visual Communications luôn vinh danh những tác phẩm mới của các nghệ sĩ người Mỹ gốc Á Châu Thái Bình Dương,” cô Shinae Yoon, Giám đốc điều hành của Visual Communications, trình bày. “DVD phim Dòng Máu Anh Hùng được phát hành là một bước tiến quan trọng trong việc giới thiệu những đạo diễn mới và tài năng như Charlie Nguyễn, cũng như trong công việc nuôi dưỡng một thế hệ nghệ sĩ sau này sẽ nâng cao vấn đề bản sắc của người gốc Á.”
Dòng Máu Anh Hùng có sự góp mặt của các tài tử Johnny Trí Nguyễn (The Protector, First Morning, Spiderman), Dustin Nguyễn (21 Jump Street, Finishing the Game) và người mẫu kiêm ca sĩ NgôThanh Vân. Phim mang bối cảnh Việt Nam vào thập niên 1920 khi phong trào chống Pháp dấy lên. Để đàn áp quân khởi nghĩa, người Pháp đã đào tạo một số người Việt Nam thành những toán đặc nhiệm chuyên săn lùng những tổ chức của nghĩa quân.
Dòng Máu Anh Hùng chiếm nhiều cảm tinh của giới điểm phim. “Tàn nhẫn đến đau đớn… nhưng đau đớn mà quá đã,” (theo Film Threat). Dòng Máu Anh Hùng là “một thành đạt về tuyệt kỹ võ thuật lồng trong một câu chuyện hấp dẫn về chính trị, quyền lực và bội phản” (trích Tạp chí Pop Journalism).
“Cả hai tổ chức VAALA và Visual Communications rất hứng khởi khi cùng thực hiện các buổi chiếu phim đặc biệt tại Los Angeles và quận Cam để quảng bá cuốn DVD sắp được chính thức phát hành,” cô Lê Đình Y-Sa, Giám đốc điều hành VAALA cho biết. “Trong dịp này, chúng tôi kêu gọi khán giả hãy ‘mua đĩa thiệt, ủng hộ phim Việt’ để chúng ta sẽ còn được xem nhiều phim hay như Dòng Máu Anh Hùng.” “Mua đĩa thiệt, ủng hộ phim Việt” sẽ là “châm ngôn” của Đại Hội Điện Ảnh Việt Nam Quốc Tế nhằm kêu gọi khán giả hỗ trợ các nhà làm phim.
Được thành lập vào năm 1991 bởi một số nghệ sĩ, nhà báo và thân hữu tại quận Cam, Hội Văn Học Nghệ Thuật Việt Mỹ (VAALA) là một tổ chức bất vụ lợi nhằm quảng bá những tác phẩm nghệ thuật do các nghệ sĩ người Việt hoặc gốc Việt thực hiện để góp phần phong phú hóa đời sống tinh thần của cộng đồng. VAALA đã tổ chức nhiều cuộc triển lãm, ra mắt sách, kịch, trình diễn âm nhạc, hội thảo, Đại Hội Điện Ảnh Việt Nam Quốc Tế (ViFF), Cinema Symposium, Cuộc Thi Vẽ Thiếu Nhi và Thiếu Niên vào dịp Trung Thu, và các lớp âm nhạc và hội họa tại VAALA Studio. VAALA cũng đã phát triển chương trình smART, nhằm tổ chức những buổi workshop về nghệ thuật cho các tổ chức bất vụ lợi phục vụ giới trẻ tại vùng quận Cam và Los Angeles.
Được thành lập vào năm 1970, Visual Communications là một tổ chức bất vụ lợi của người Mỹ gốc Á chuyên về media arts (nghệ thuật truyền thông) nhằm quảng bá sự thông cảm giữa các nền văn hóa qua sự sáng tạo, trình bày, bảo tồn và yểm trợ những tác phẩm thuộc về nghệ thuật truyền thông. Visual Communications hiện có một catalog bao gồm hơn 100 phim và video do chính Visual Communications sản xuất; lưu trữ khoảng 500,000 tấm hình vừa lịch sử vừa đương đại của cộng đồng người Mỹ gốc Á. Visual Communications thực hiện nhiều khóa học và hội thảo về điện ảnh, giáo dục; và tổ chức nhiều cuộc triển lãm, trình chiếu phim, bao gồm Đại Hội Điện Ảnh Á Châu Thái Bình Dương ở Los Angeles hàng năm.
Để biết thêm chi tiết về hai buổi chiếu đặc biệt của phim Dòng Máu Anh Hùng cũng như thông tin về hai tổ chức Visual Communications và VAALA, xin quý vị vào thăm trang nhà http://www.vconline.org và http://www.vaala.org.
September 23, 2008
In Vietnam where the noise of local activity seems never to stop, movie-making can be difficult work.
The constant beeping of horns, public sound systems, and noisy wildlife are just a few of the many obstacles when it comes to shooting a movie scene and capturing the actor’s dialogue.
To avoid such pitfalls, many Vietnamese directors choose to dub their films. But this is less than ideal and can come off sounding inauthentic.
The crew of the film Vu khuc con co (Song of the stork), an epic docudrama set during the Vietnam War, encountered a problem with a public loudspeaker while they were shooting in Hanoi in 2000.
Whenever they were about to shoot a scene, the loudspeaker – which serves as a public news broadcasting system – would begin blaring.
The directors, Jonathan Foo and Nguyen Phan Quang Binh, were at a loss how to stop the noise while the actors were put off by the continual interruptions.
The crew sought permission from the district’s People Committee to turn off the speaker during filming but the nuisance persisted.
One young assistant (now celebrated director Nguyen Quang Dung) came up with a clever idea.
He climbed up a tree, cut off the electric wire to the speaker and reconnected it after they finished shooting.
The crew of Dong mau anh hung (The Rebel), last year’s action-packed martial arts smash hit – directed by overseas director Charlie Nguyen and produced by Chanh Phuong – also experienced a comical situation on set.
During a scene featuring stars Johnny Tri Nguyen and Ngo Thanh Van in a deserted house, the two actors were supposed to express their passionate love for one another. Waves of laughter erupted on set when the loud snores of a technical assistant were heard echoing through the “deserted” house.
The entire scene had to be re-shot but Dong mau anh hung ultimately went on to win several awards including the grand prize at the 2007 Los Angeles-Asia Pacific Festival and the Silver Lotus prize at the 15th Vietnam National Film Festival.
Another sound problem arose on the set of the romantic comedy Giai cuu Than Chet (Rescue the Grim Reaper), the sequel to the blockbuster film Nu hon Than Chet (The Kiss of Death), directed by Nguyen Quang Dung.
Just when the crew had almost wrapped up filming a scene featuring An An (Minh Hang) and the teenage Grim Reaper (Chi Thien), someone’s cell phone suddenly rang, marring the entire shot.
In another situation, the crew was busy shooting a night scene and was shocked when a motorcyclist darted straight out at them.
The motorcyclist even sped up and began yelling, thinking he was being robbed when a crew member tried to stop him.
In another scene where the actors were supposed to be discussing business, a tourist stepped out from an elevator ruining the entire shot. The tourist then began shouting that the crew was blocking the entrance of the building.
While shooting a scene at the Giang Dien waterfall in southern Dong Nai Province for the critically acclaimed TV series Mui ngo gai (Scent of coriander), cicadas buzzed noisily each time Korean director Kim Hyo Joong called for quiet on the set.
Four assistants were sent in to shake the trees and scare the insects away.
Despite the effort, however, the buzzing noise still made its way into the sound recording.
Reported by Do Tuan
September 17, 2008
On Sept. 2, 1945, Ho Chi Minh stood in Ba Dinh Square in Hanoi and made a simple declaration to the 100,000 people gathered there. “Vietnam has the right to enjoy freedom and independence,” he proclaimed, calling for an end to almost a century of French occupation.
Indochina, as the colony was known, has alternated roles of victor and victim since then. Partitioned in 1954, it was fought over by the Americans until 1975, united as the Socialist Republic of Vietnam in 1976 and, since the mid-1980s, has slowly opened up again to the West.
It is now part of the World Trade Organization and this year even gained a non-permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council.
On Tuesday, this feisty nation of 85 million people celebrated its National Day. If you thought you knew Vietnam from U.S.-centric war flicks like Apocalypse Now, Platoon or The Deer Hunter, it’s time to see the country a different way, through the viewfinder of some of its finest filmmakers.
Exemplified by the meticulous work of emigré director Tran Ang Hung, these finely-crafted works of art are typical of the Vietnamese sensibility. They’re the sublimely spiritual products of hearts and minds attuned to the human scale, subtly observed and deeply felt.
The Scent of Green Papaya (France/Vietnam, 1993). Amazingly, Tran’s first feature film was filmed entirely in a studio in Paris, his adopted city. Even so, it faithfully recreates the atmosphere of middle-class family life in 1950s Saigon, as an impressionable servant girl named Mui uncovers her masters’ hidden foibles. Out-of-print in North America, the DVD is available from Britain in an all-region version by Second Sight (try amazon.co.uk).
Cyclo (France/Hong Kong/ Vietnam, 1995). Tran’s second film is a wild departure from the first. It’s a violent, disturbing portrait of the nasty and brutish life of a man who
drives a “cyclo” (a bicycle taxi) in Ho Chi Minh City and who gets himself and his sister messed up with drugs, gangsters and prostitution. Radiohead’s song Creep figures prominently. The New Yorker DVD is a solid transfer.
Three Seasons (U.S./Vietnam, 1999). Billed as the first American film to be set in Vietnam (and scripted mostly in the Vietnamese language) since the last U.S. helicopter beat a retreat in 1975, this multi-storylined melodrama was the debut feature of young director Tony Bui. A street urchin, a cyclo
driver, a prostitute and an ex-GI (Harvey Keitel) find their lives interconnect in the big city. A fine Canadian DVD from Seville Pictures.
The Vertical Ray of the Sun (France/Germany/Vietnam, 2000). Good things come in threes, as Tran’s third feature proves. Alternatively titled At the Height of Summer, it’s the most accessible of the bunch, signaled by the choice of opening music, Lou Reed’s laconic Pale Blue Eyes. Three sisters in Hanoi prepare a banquet honouring their dead mother, and family secrets are revealed. The Columbia Tri-Star disc skimps on extras but looks great.
Buffalo Boy (France/Belgium/ Vietnam, 2004). Another
feature debut, this time from American-educated writer-
director Minh Nguyen-Vo. The film takes place in rural Indochina in the mid-1940s, and centres on a peasant teenager who sets off on a life-and-death search for food for his family’s two starving water buffalo. Fate has him fall in with a gang of knife-wielding herders. The extras-rich DVD is in First Run Features’ Global Lens Collection.