Song Lang ★★★½

yes! finally!! finally!!!!

it still feels a little surreal to see a vietnamese film that is competent in every aspect, including, but not limited to: the cinematography, the screenplay, the directions, the production and costume design, the performances, and the sound design.

song lang takes place during the peak of our cải lương scene, which in the 70s-80s was a big form of theater entertainment for all classes. it pays considerable amount of respect to the genre, making it the vehicle to bring our two leads together. the movie evidently draws heavy inspiration from the great wong kar-wai, so much so that some of these shots and set designs looked like they were pulled straight out of happy together (1997), a very appropriate inspiration considering the type of romantic relationship both films chose to focus on. of course, like a wong kar-wai film, the breathtaking cinematography is the forefront of all aspects, framing the deteriorating houses of sài gòn under soft lighting and unique angles.

one of the leads reminded me a lot of ryan gosling in only god forgives, or ryan gosling in drive, or ryan gosling in the place beyond the pines, or ryan gosling in- *sniper takes me out*. its not a bad thing per se, but his stoic and quiet demeanor makes his character a bit too wooden at times.

song lang was an unbelievable debut from director leon lê, through his understanding of coordinated camera movements, framing, and child actor directions, he brings the poignant screenplay to life while complimenting it with beautiful imagery and music. its also the first time in a vietnamese film where i have no problem with any of the performances except that one little nitpick.

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