Made in 2004 and first seen at the Berlin International Film Festival in February 2005 (where it was nominated for a Golden Bear) and that fall at the New York Film Festival, Aleksandr Sokurov's one-of-a-kind movie THE SUN (Solntse) has remained since that time securely beyond the reach of U.S. audiences. According to the press release from Film Forum, where the movie is about to make its theatrical debut, "complications with the producers" made the acquisition of U.S. rights difficult -- until this year when Lorber Films picked it up.
Thanks are due to both organizations, not to mention Mr. Sokurov (shown at right), because any film from this director and sometimes writer (Russian Ark, Father and Son, Aleksandra, among others) should have the chance to be seen. The Sun, written by Yuri Arabov & Jeremy Noble, is no exception and is among Sokurov's best that I have seen. The film-
maker does not appear to want to repeat himself -- not in theme nor genre, nor in style (stylistic changes, one assumes, accompany a change of genre). The four films mentioned above have little in common except their high quality, commitment to a particular vision, and the director's ability to execute that vision. Even the usual constant of the Russian language is missing in The Sun.
where off in the clouds but in Japan, he was right there with them.
|Much of this occurs below the surface of things, mind you, but it's definitely there. Notice the sweat on the forehead of the Chamberlain as his dresses his Emperor. The Emperor cer-|
tainly notices this and, thanks to the minutely detailed and deeply felt performance by Issei Ogata (at right) as Hirohito, we begin to understand the special burden of Emperor/Godship. As he and his staff and advisers wait for the inevitable coming of the U.S. forces, Hirohito meets with his own military leaders (the navy has capitulated but the army says "Never!"), studies marine biology (his comparison of the crab to U.S. immigration laws is interesting) and looks through photos albums of his own family and of various movie stars (photos of Ann Southern and Marlene Dietrich seem to provoke something special: Did this gentleman prefer blonds?)
|A frightening collection of images/symbols -- fish, birds, planes, bombs and fire -- fills the Emperor's unsettling dreams during his nap, filling the screen with portent, while putting to shame much of the typical "special effects" we see these days. If you need one, here's a fine example of the difference between CGI art and schlock. (The cinematography, too, is by Sokurov, and the art direction by Yelena Zhukova.) Once the Americans arrive, we're treated to an unforgettable scene involving the Emperor's garden, U.S. soldiers and a crane (of the bird variety rather than machine). Then come the scenes between Hirohito and General MacArthur, played with a smart and very believable combination of self-importance and genuine inquisitiveness by Robert Dawson (above, left). These are marvels of subtlety and tact (and sometimes the lack of them) and for once shows us how inscrutable the west must appear to the east instead of the usual vice versa.|
The film opens Wednesday, November 18, for a two-week run at NYC's Film Forum.