Chris Knipp Writing: Movies, Politics, Art


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PostPosted: Tue Oct 04, 2005 5:11 pm 
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Andrei Sokurov: The Sun/Solnze (Russia/Italy/France/Swizerland 2005). 110 minutes. No US distributor.

NYFF: October 8, 2005.



A great film


Sokurov's haunting recreation of how Emperor Hirohito spent the last hours before the Japanese surrender, this is a miraculous work, and it provided the most powerful aesthetic and emotional experience of the 2005 New York Film Festival, whose official selections were not lacking in depth and fine filmmaking. The Sun depicts a man who knows very well what is going on but lives in a cocoon, in a state of detachment and ineffectuality that becomes strangely heartrending. Issey Ogata's performance as the Emperor easily competes for hypnotic intensity with Bruno Ganz's Hitler in the German film Downfall -- but with a very different sort of bunker and a very different kind of man: a silent, immaculate country house with a few faithful servants in attendance; a small, frail but upright and dignified personage who can easily explain the causes of the Japanese defeat to his general staff but has never learned to dress himself or open a door. Even on this day he is more comfortable browsing through photos of his family and American movie stars, dictating notes on marine biology, and writing poetry. Despite the disgrace, he is selflessly happy that peace has come. He inks a brush to write a statement to his absent son, but instead drafts a few verses about the weather. Later he is taken to see Eisenhower, and then brought back again to dine with the general. He enjoys the wine and the meat and has his first taste of a Havana cigar. The Americans conclude that the Emperor is like a child. "What's it like being a living god?" Ike asks. And speaking, to the dismay of the Japanese interpreter, in perfect English, Hirohito says, "What can I tell you? You know, it is not easy being Emperor." These are just a few details in a film rich in telling ones. Simply enumerating them can't explain this film's slow, cumulative emotional wallop -- or the lovely, fantastic, dreamlike landscape images toward the end. This film about one of modern history's most humiliating defeats is a stunning triumph. The Sun demonstrates unmistakably that Andrei Sokurov is one of the world's great filmmakers.

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