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TORONTO: Jan discovers 'a great film' called YI YI

Hey folks, Harry here.... unfortunately in all liklihood this is a film you'll have to search out. One you'll find on IFC or something because Taiwanese films do not often get distribution... unfortunately.... Here ya go with Jan's look at YI YI...

Hey Harry,

Right now is already 1:45 a.m. at night but I'm still writing the latest film report from the film fest. My eyes are getting dry but my heart is actually mad with delight. Why? Because I've discovered another great film today, a Taiwanese film called "Yi Yi," a complex family drama about a modern middle-class family living in Taipei. Although I haven't seen all the films at the festival, I got a feeling that Asian films, notably Chinese films, are the winner of the world cinema in Year 2000. While Chinese films excited the world cinema in the early 1990s (Zhang Yi-mou's "Raising Red Lantern," "To Live" and "Ju Dou"; Chen Kei-ge's "Farewell to My Concubine"; Hou Hsiao-Hsien's "The City of Sadness" and " and less well-known Tian Zhuang-zhuang's "The Blue Kite"), they turned dead silent after 1995 (only Wong Kar-wai could somehow hold on). Now, it seems that those Chinese films are coming back and making lots of noise again. Some other Asian movies from Japan ("Brother" and "Gohatto"), Thailand ("The Iron Ladies" and "6ixtynin9") and South Korea ("The Isle") also blosoom in this year's film fest as well.

Here is my review for YI YI:

Yi Yi (A One and a Two); directed by Edward Yang

In my yesterday's report, I mentioned that Wong Kar-wai's "In the Mood for Love" will make any this year's Hollywood romantic film look silly. Now, Edward Yang's "Yi Yi" is gonna beat every single family drama in the WORLD this year. I know you might be thinking I'm just exaggerating and it's too early to make such a serious claim, I guess the only way I can convince you to agree with me is just to see this movie.

Unlike many so-called "outstanding" family dramas which simply focus on dysfunctional families, "Yi Yi" is more concerned about the everyday life of normal people who have to practically solve their family matters. In the movie, each of the members in the middle-class Taiwanese family has his or her own troubles -- the father has to deal with the pressure from his job; the mother needs to take care of the comatose grandma; the teenage daughter feels puzzled about love; and the little son got to find some way to deal with the teacher who always picks on him. And we are introduced to more characters, such as the superstitious uncle who has finanicial problems and the father's ex-lover. Although there're so many characters, the director effortlessly assemble their heartfelt stories together with precision and clarity.

If we look at those recent Hollywood movies about family, they are all out of touch of our ordinary life (That's why I'm one of the few who didn't really like "American Beauty." I still think this film is overrated). Well, I didn't see every single of them and perhaps it's not appropriate for me to generalize all of them. To me, those American films about family are mostly about adultery, disobedient and uncontrolled children, domestic violence and deviant sexual practices either committed by the parents or the children. However, we have to realize that today's families are just unhappy, not dysfunctional and deviant. Many families, like ours, are surrounded by some trivial but bothering personal matters that would happen and be experienced by everybody. What I love about "Yi Yi" is that the stories are connected to our living and easily earn our empathy. Like many of us, the characters in the film are sometimes vulnerable and helpless but also realize that they have to find some way to resolve the immediate, everyday crisis (the elderly family member suddenly turns ill etc.).

Although this film is about the everyday life of the family, there is not a single boring moment in the film. In fact, this film is filled with many everyday but interesting moments that would make you smile. While I was watching, I was unconsciously more and more drawn into the characters' situations. I was amazed that how much I really cared about the characters. In the final shot of the movie, when the little son tells his feeling in the grandma's funeral, it was powerfully touching. Finally, what's wonderful about this film is that it might make you cry without manipulation, unlike many ugly tearjerkers. Every touching moment comes so natural that it's your internal feeling and sensitivities that touch your heart.

By the way, it's not only me who completely falls in love with this film. After the movie, I checked out the brief film review from a local weekly publication named "NOW," which states that "Yi Yi" is "possibly a masterpiece." I think this film IS a masterpiece. Anyway, "Yi Yi" is one of the best films I saw this year.

JAN

Readers Talkback
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  • Sept. 14, 2000, 5:06 a.m. CST

    Ummmmmm.....

    by Grimfarrow

    Hate to break it to ya, but the film won the Best Director's prizze at Cannes. A lot of people already have heard at this film. In fact, the film got one of the most consistently excellent reviews at Cannes (along with In the Mood for Love), something that the divisive Dancer in the Dark didn't even get.

  • Sept. 14, 2000, 12:55 p.m. CST

    A brighter summmer day

    by jiaqi

    edward yang has had a long and artistically lucrative career that harkens all the way back to That day on the beach in the early 80s. While I wasn't too happy with some rough edges of "Terrorizer", his "A brighter Summer Day" from 1991 is a MUST SEE. It is a rare "youth flick"/family drama that creates a strangely realistic dynamic for a 60s taiwan in transition. I say strange b/c it's a taiwanese experience very different from my own in history and family background, but the violence and disillusionment are intensely real. with Yi yi boasting most of Yang's core cast (including scriptwriter/director Wu nien-jen) this is very much anticipated.

  • Sept. 14, 2000, 4:05 p.m. CST

    Epic lengths

    by Chez Charlot

    I read great things about Yi Yi over the wire, but the length scared me away. Now I regret it. Will check it out when it comes. Did see "Les Destinees Sentimental" last night by Oliver Assayas. It was another epic and started half an hour late. I emerged at 1 am after watching Limoge porcelain be made for three hours. It is a good film though, you just need a lot of caffeine and patience.