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Movie Review

At The Height Of Summer (IFC)

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Directed by Tran Anh Hung, starring Tran Nu Yen-Khe.

Tran Anh Hung appears to be carving out a reputation as the Vietnamese Terrence Malick. Five years after his last film 'Cyclo' opened to critical acclaim he has finally shot a follow up.

'At The Height Of Summer' is a character driven piece, focusing on the lives of three sisters, Lien, Suong and Khanh, who all appear to have idyllic lives at first. However, the story slowly reveals that all is not well with the sisters, as their personal lives are shown to be in some disarray. This builds to a climax that is dramatic and has one of the funniest twists seen on the silver screen in quite some time.

The film's cinematography is breathtaking. Hung juxtaposes scenes of intense conversation in closely confined space with stunning, sweeping shots of Vietnam, producing a powerful contrast of styles. The performances are all tremendous, particularly Tran Nu Yen-Khe, who plays Lien with a tenderness and beauty that is a joy to behold.

The first quarter is very slow and Hung does not show his visual flair early on. But it is worth persisting, as after that it becomes something very worthwhile indeed. As usual, Hung uses music quite brilliantly to enhance the images, with Lou Reed being employed to great effect in the early morning scenes.

A poignant tale of the things we say and don't say to those we love, Hung has again displayed an interest in the offbeat that should be applauded. Although only three films into his career, he is showing enough promise to make the move into mainstream cinema. We just have to hope that if and when he goes, he takes his originality and unique visual flair with him.

John Raftery

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