Yi Yi

2000, Movie, NR, 173 mins


Taiwanese director Edward Yang's portrait of a modern-day Taipei family builds so gradually you probably won't realize it's a near-masterpiece until it's over, but there are hints along the way. A chance encounter with a long-lost love precipitates a crisis of faith in a middle-aged businessman and father of two: Faith in his marriage, his job and the assurance that he's made the right life choices. Leaving an elevator at his brother-in-law's wedding banquet, emotionally remote NJ Jian (Wu Nienjen) runs into Sherry (Ke Suyun), the girl he once loved but abandoned, and the source of his deepest regret. What if he hadn't stood her up that night? Through a series of circumstances, NJ gets a chance to find out; his mother-in-law (Tang Ruyun) suffers a stroke and slips into a coma, leading his wife Min-Min (Elaine Jin) to confess her own deep unhappiness and decamp to a temple retreat. Meanwhile, the once-successful firm NJ works for sends him to Japan to woo a computer-game developer (Issey Ogata) while engaging a Chinese company to knock off his software. NJ has serious reservations about such dishonorable treatment of an honorable man, but agrees to go and arranges to meet Sherry in Tokyo. From the title (which roughly translates as "One One") and characters names to the way cinematographer Yang Weihan captures their most introspective moments, Yang's film is structured around reflections, and the strongest parts of this remarkable film involve NJ's children whose lives echo their father's. NJ's teenage daughter Ting-Ting (Kelly Lee) is getting her first lessons in love, guilt and heartache, while eight-year-old Yang-Yang (Jonathan Chang) is realizing that nothing about life really makes much sense. At nearly three hours, this exquisitely crafted film moves slowly but it's never dull. And though elegant medium and long shots predominate, it's both warm and intimate. Rather than creating a sense of remoteness, the camera's distance from the action allows it to take everything in — life, death and the confusing mess in between. leave a comment --Ken Fox

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Yi Yi (The Criterion Collection) [Blu-ray]
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