I’ve watched 4 films from Edward Yang in total. The adventure started with Yi Yi and continued to A Bright Summer Day. The latter disappointed me greatly thus I stopped watching his films. Recently I learnt that Edward Yang thought very highly of Mikio Naruse, one of my favourite directors whose works, in my opinions, are disturbingly underappreciated. For this reason, I resumed my journey with Edward Yang. I added Terrorizers and A Confucian Confusion to my collection and rewatched Yi Yi.
Eight years had lapsed since the first time I watched, yet it still touched me so deeply, if not more. The movie portraits a big family (Jian) in Taipei. Despite of a huge number of characters whose lifestyles and stories are vastly different, the movie does an excellent job putting every little episode into an unified framework/theme. The directing and editing makes every bit converges very nicely (which reminds me of another marvelous movie by Ang Lee Eat Drink Man Woman). Both movies paint a very vivid picture of people of various works and their roles in Taiwan society at the time.
One editing trick of the movie that I am particular fond of is the use of elements from the coming scene (such as sounds) in the current scene. This makes the transition more smooth and forces the viewers to follow the flow or even actively construct anticipations.
Compared to the two other films of Edward Yang, Terrorizers and A Confucian Confusion, I’d say that Yi Yi is closer in both style and theme to Terroizers. In style, both films take a relatively slow pace with little (not zero) drama whereas A Confucian Confusion violently displays tons of emotions and shouts to your face the lessons the director wanted to convey. In this regard, Yi Yi and Terrorizers are more of a naturalistic style while A Confucian Confusion impressionistic. As for the themes, the two movies explore more in the realm of the middle-aged, the lives with regrets, and the helplessness of people who tried but in vain. A Confucian Confusion, on the other hand, is more relevant to a younger generation (probably this is why there are more shouting and dramas) who are lost in the changes of time and their own indecisiveness. Lastly, I really love the endings of both Yi Yi and Terrorizers (both with the perfect music there) but A Confucian Confusion’s ending is just like any ending of ridiculous drama – you have no idea how it should end so it just ends abruptly somewhere.
Well even though my comments towards A Confucian Confusion is rather negative, many people love this film and considers it the best of Edward Yang. And why do I like the old-man/woman’s films better? I guess I feel old too.
Edward Yang, ‘Generosity – The Invincible Invisible Style: On Naruse Mikio’, in Shigehiko Hasumi and Sadao Yamane (eds.)., Mikio Naruse (San Sebàstian, 1998), pp. 153-157.
P.S. in this article, Edward Yang analyzed the last scene of Yearning (Naruse, 1964), which is one of my favourite movies of all time and in my opinion the best Japanese cinema has offered.