Showing on the 28th of December, At The Height Of Summer, at the Bandroom at 7.30pm (doors open at 7.00pm and refreshments on sale).
The American title of the film, translated from the French, was At the Vertical Ray of the Sun which was more accurate for reflecting the erotic paganism within the work. The summer’s high noon at the solstice heralds an ecstasy for the three sisters and a brother who are going through a family crisis. This 2001 Vietnamese film is a timeless depiction of a languorous, sensual existence where one can feel nothing really happens. Yet we learn about past and present adulteries, one or two pregnancies and a suggestion of incest.
This story is not about people moving on or getting on; its main purpose is to show the pleasure of just being. This Hanoi is not a realistic view of the teeming city, but instead offers a dream version as if it were the setting for a musical. The writer/director made The Scent of Green Papaya in 1993 but set in French ruled Vietnam. His French cultural background shows in all his films and he especially admires Robert Bresson whose films explore the essence of characters not their behaviour.
We meet three sisters, the youngest of whom lives with her brother in an emotional closeness. The older sister is married to a novelist with writer’s block. The third sister is married to a man obsessed with plants and he has a second life on the island where he does his botanical research. The sisters meet, prepare a meal, gossip, confide and wonder. The men are rather off centre but crucial to the sisters’ motivations and ambitions. Food is a key part of the experience, its preparation and consumption, which is a major sensual impact in the story. They prepare a memorial banquet for their mother. They speculate how a penis would be cooked and the consensus is “fried in garlic”. This is not to suggest the film is a humorous one, in fact it is very serious. They are concerned the mother may have had an affair and two of the sisters suspect their own husbands.
The film is a visual feast , photographed by the man who worked on In The Mood For Love and there are many unforgettable visual moments. The director wished to convey the most sensuous harmony he has enjoyed in his life. See this film and realise the non stop action movies we are subjected to today are really an excuse for not being able to enjoy life for itself.
For information on how to join Cranleigh Film Club for the second half of the season at a proportionately discounted rate contact: the membership secretary Sara Lock at [email protected] com