Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Yi Yi

Initially Published Here

The last film completed by Edward Yang before he passed away in 2007, Yi Yi is also, arguably, his best. An intimate epic, it moves at a leisurely pace but is packed with so much detail and so many finely drawn characters that its almost 3 hour running time flies past like time spent with great friends. Like Altman at his best, Yang trusts his audience to put together the connections between people and places. The film has plenty of laughs and drama, but Yang’s camera moves with such subtle grace that these moments seem to come out of nowhere and hit all the harder for it. And the film features one of the most eloquent metaphors for the power of film I have ever encountered -- an 8 year old boy, played by Jonathan Chang in one of the great child performances ever, takes to photographing the back of people’s heads in order to show them something they have never seen before. “You can’t see it yourself, so I’m helping you,” is how he puts it and that moment has stuck with me in the decade since I first saw the film.

Criterion have upgraded their already excellent DVD package to Blu-Ray. Presentation is much more film-like than any previous home video version. Most of the extras are carried over from the prior Criterion release and include a commentary track by Yang and critic Tony Rayns, a video interview with Rayns about the New Taiwan Cinema movement and an insightful essay by film writer Kent Jones which focuses on Yang’s empathetic depiction of modern life in Taipei.

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