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Judge Brendan Babish • Location: Upland, CA
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Philadelphia Film Festival Review #9: The Sun
April 9th, 2006 8:45PM

Film: The Sun
Director: Aleksandr Sokurov

Those who have seen Oliver Hirschbiegelís masterful movie Downfall are going to have difficulty not reflecting back on that film while watching The Sun. Downfall is a drama detailing the last days of Adolf Hitlerís life as the Allied troops encircle his Berlin bunker. The Sun is a drama detailing the historical meeting between Japanese Emperor Hirohito and American General Douglas McArthur at the end of World War II. Unfortunately for viewers of The Sun, Hitlerís drug-addled paranoia makes for far better drama than Hirohitoís pensive contemplation.

To his credit, director Sokurov seems to have stayed loyal to history in this underwhelming presentation of Hirohito. While watching The Sun one can easily imagine that this footage was taken from a hidden camera inside the Imperial Palace. This effect is greatly aided by the fine Japanese actor Issei Ogata, who turns in a powerful, understated performance as Hirohito. Though most actors would be tempted to overact while playing the emperor of a country at war, Ogata wisely plays Hirohito as a meek and cloistered man.

Unfortunately, American actor Robert Dawson, who plays General McArthur proves to be an unusual liability. Dawson plays McArthur with the commensurate gravitas, but he has got one of the largest heads I have ever seen on film. For his first few minutes on screen I had trouble taking my eyes off his oversized cranium.

Ultimately, The Sun is a fine portrait of a landmark historical event, but lacks enough dramatic thrust to captivate.

Grade: C+

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