Edward Yang – Yi yi (2000)

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Master Taiwanese director Edward Yang spins this intricate and complex yarn about life’s everyday crises. The film focuses on N.J. Jian (Wu Nien-jen), a noted writer/director in his own right), his wife Min-min (Elaine Jin) and their two children, teenager Ting-ting (Kelly Lee) and young Yang-yang (Jonathan Chang). Their middle-class existence seems stable and secure until a series of incidents throws all of their lives out of kilter. The misfortunes start at the wedding of Min-min’s ne’er-do-well brother A-Di (Chen Xisheng), when his jilted ex-girlfriend Yun-Yun (Zeng Xinyi) bursts into the proceedings and lambastes the bride. Upset by the ruckus and feeling unwell, Min-min’s mother goes home early only to suffer a stroke and slip into a coma. After the wedding, N.J. runs into his first love, Sherry (Ke Suyun), who is married to a rich American. This chance encounter shakes N.J. to his very foundations, forcing him to reevaluate his life. At the same time, N.J.’s computer company deliberates on whether or not to collaborate with a renowned Japanese games designer, Ota (Issey Ogata), sending N.J. to Japan to negotiate a contract. Confronted by her mother’s coma, Min-min also takes stock of her life and finds it lacking. On the brink of a nervous breakdown, she suddenly joins a religious retreat. Continue reading

Edward Yang – Gu ling jie shao nian sha ren shi jian AKA A Brighter Summer Day (1991)

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It’s only natural that Edward Yang’s A Brighter Summer Day begins with a shot of a barely-lit light bulb. On the set of a movie, a director reprimands an actress for harping on the color of her dress. “This is a black and white film,” he says, one of many references to the symbolic darkness that overshadows the milieu of the film. A Brighter Summer Day is itself in color, but it may as well be monochrome. Much of the film’s action takes place at night or inside dimly lit interiors, and it’s not unusual for the characters to be confronted by light and its almost political implications. Some of the best images in the film (young boys staring at a rehearsal from a theater’s rooftop; a basketball bouncing out of a darkened alleyway) pit light against dark—a fascinating dialectic meant to symbolize a distinctly Taiwanese struggle between past and present. From weapons to watches, objects similarly speak to the present. Like the light, these objects are constant reminders that the past can’t be ignored and must be used to negotiate the present. Continue reading

Edward Yang – Mahjong aka Couples (1996)

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Review:
Mahjong (1996) is in many ways Yang’s greatest Satire, but has, at the same time, the beating pulse of a real dramatic story. In plays on the perception of Taiwan by foreign entities, urban locales, love, father/son relationships, and of course, themes of business & greed that Yang most vehemently loathes. The story is told through a variety of different viewpoints, but we are centered on a small gang of friends/hustlers, apparently led by Red Fish (Tang Congsheng), and consisting of Luen-Luen (Ke Yulun), a gentle-hearted translator, Hong Kong (Chen Chang of Crouching Tiger fame), a ladies man who is able to charm his way into any woman’s pants, and Little Buddha (the same actor who played “Cat” in Yang’s A Brighter Summer Day), a fake Feng-Shui expert who is used in the gang’s various scams. A French woman named Marthe (Virginie Ledoyen) – Yang plays very craftily on the similarity of the name ‘Marthe’ with ‘Matra’, the defunct subway system in Taiwan that is milking the city of its funds – comes to urban Taipei looking for her “lover”, a British man named Marcus. The plot eventually shows us Marthe’s eventual relationship with Red Fish’s gang (and Luen-Luen), but also reveals a variety of interesting narrative twists and turns concerning Red Fish and Hong Kong. Continue reading

Edward Yang – Du li shi dai AKA A Confucian Confusion (1994)

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Nominated for the Golden Palm in Cannes 1994.

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I’ve just seen a marvelous film. Edward Yang’s little-seen and under-distributed A Confucian Confusion is that screwball comedy I long to see that for once is smart, engaging and jabs you where it hurts and tickles most.

As suggested by the title, it deals with the trials and tribulations of a motley of urbanites living in modern Taipei and their escalating moral decadence (or not?). Among them is the young and lovely Chen Shiang-Chyi.

The dialogue is just so fun to listen to. The scenes are so expertly staged. The humor so spot-on.

Over-the-top funny yet never losing its grip on pressing contemporary issues. Confusion is indeed an artful blend of artistry and entertainment. For an Edward yang film, this is in fact a rare sight. Continue reading

Edward Yang – Guling jie shaonian sha ren shijian AKA A Brighter Summer Day (1991)

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It’s only natural that Edward Yang’s A Brighter Summer Day begins with a shot of a barely-lit light bulb. On the set of a movie, a director reprimands an actress for harping on the color of her dress. “This is a black and white film,” he says, one of many references to the symbolic darkness that overshadows the milieu of the film. A Brighter Summer Day is itself in color, but it may as well be monochrome. Much of the film’s action takes place at night or inside dimly lit interiors, and it’s not unusual for the characters to be confronted by light and its almost political implications. Some of the best images in the film (young boys staring at a rehearsal from a theater’s rooftop; a basketball bouncing out of a darkened alleyway) pit light against dark—a fascinating dialectic meant to symbolize a distinctly Taiwanese struggle between past and present. From weapons to watches, objects similarly speak to the present. Like the light, these objects are constant reminders that the past can’t be ignored and must be used to negotiate the present. Continue reading