Taiwanese filmmaker Edward Yang ("Yi Yi") dies at 59

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I often found his pre-Yi Yi work frustratingly languorous, but I might feel differently if I could see A Brighter Summer Day or Taipei Story again.


Dr Morbius, Monday, 2 July 2007 17:41 (fifteen years ago) link

That's a shame. This means I need to rescreen Yi Yi. Anyone own the Criterion version?

Alfred, Lord Sotosyn, Monday, 2 July 2007 17:42 (fifteen years ago) link

ohhh! RIP indeed. =(

admrl, Monday, 2 July 2007 17:43 (fifteen years ago) link

I just reserved the Criterion at the library (it appears to be the only film of his they hold, in a multitude of formats and releases).

Dr Morbius, Monday, 2 July 2007 17:46 (fifteen years ago) link

yi yi is one of my alltime favorites

sleep, Monday, 2 July 2007 17:49 (fifteen years ago) link


Yi Yi is awesome.

Steve Shasta, Monday, 2 July 2007 18:02 (fifteen years ago) link

RIP, I treasure my Criterion edition.

Spencer Chow, Monday, 2 July 2007 18:11 (fifteen years ago) link

RIP, loved Yi Yi

gff, Monday, 2 July 2007 18:21 (fifteen years ago) link

I don't think I knew he and Hou had contributed to anthologies early in their careers...

Edward Yang, 59, Director Prominent in New Taiwan Cinema, Is Dead

Edward Yang, a leading figure in the New Taiwan cinema movement of the 1980s who was best known for “Yi Yi,” about one family’s life together (and apart) in Taipei, died Friday in Beverly Hills, Calif. He was 59.

Mr. Yang’s wife, Kaili Peng, announced his death on Saturday and said the cause was complications of colon cancer.

An American citizen, Mr. Yang was born in Shanghai in 1947, two years before the leaders of China’s Nationalist government were exiled to Taiwan. His family soon followed, and he was raised in Taipei, where he grew up watching films by Federico Fellini and Robert Bresson. Although he dreamed of becoming a filmmaker, he studied electrical engineering at the University of Florida and worked in computer design in Seattle. He experienced an epiphany, however, after seeing Werner Herzog’s “Aguirre, Wrath of God.” (“I went in,” he later explained, “and that turned me around.”) He returned to Taiwan, where he wrote the screenplay for the feature “The Winter of 1905” (1981) and directed a short, “Desires,” for the 1982 anthology feature “In Our Time.”

This film, along with another anthology work, “The Sandwich Man,” announced the arrival of two major world directors: Mr. Yang and his compatriot and former collaborator, Hou Hsiao-hsien. Together, these new wavers pushed Taiwanese cinema into its next era with work that explored the country’s rapidly moving present as well as its history, by way of period pieces and stories set in the here and now. The two also put Taiwanese cinema on the international map, eventually becoming familiar presences at important forums like Cannes, where Mr. Yang won best director in 2000 for “Yi Yi,” and the New York Film Festival.

Pierre Rissient, a former consultant for the Cannes festival, explained that in the early days Mr. Yang and Mr. Hou served as something of a team. Their approach to cinema may not have been new, at least in an international context, Mr. Rissient said. But in Taiwan and much of the rest of Asia, he continued, it “was extremely fresh and extremely intimate and, at the same time, had a distance.” This much-remarked-upon critical distance — evident in Mr. Yang’s beautiful long shots and leisurely takes — allowed characters and viewers the space and time to breathe and think. The influence of European modernists like Michelangelo Antonioni on this work is undeniable, as is its cultural specificity.

Mr. Yang directed seven features that in their visual style and preoccupations — including the impact of modernization on the Taiwanese middle class — argue for his status as an auteur. Among the notable titles were his feature directing debut, “That Day, on the Beach” (1983), a female coming-of-age story set against social and political transformations, and his autobiographically informed “A Brighter Summer Day” (1991), set among teenage gangs during the 1960s. At once deeply personal and epic in scale, with an original running time of four hours and more than 100 speaking parts, “A Brighter Summer Day” proved a crucial leap forward for Mr. Yang and firmly sealed his reputation.

Still, even as his international renown grew, Mr. Yang remained largely unknown in the United States, where interest in foreign-language film was on the wane. It wasn’t until “Yi Yi,” his last completed feature, that American audiences were finally introduced to a filmmaker widely hailed as one of the most important in contemporary cinema. Released here under the jazz-influenced title “A One and a Two,” the film received rapturous reviews. Writing in The New York Times, A. O. Scott called it “lucid, unobtrusive and absorbing” and, like many critics, placed it on his top-10 list of the year. It went on to win numerous honors, including best picture — in any language — from the National Society of Film Critics.

Mr. Yang is survived by his wife; a son, Sean; a sister, Li; and a brother, Robert.

Copyright 2007 The New York Times Company

Dr Morbius, Monday, 2 July 2007 19:09 (fifteen years ago) link

I didn't hear about this until tonight. 'Yi Yi' is my favorite film of all time. Along with Lukas Moodysson's 'Together' it is the reason I moved to Los Angeles and started (trying to) work in entertainment. A few years ago I saw Yang's "A Brighter Summer's Day" and decided I could safely crown my favorite filmmaker. The quiet profundity of his works has had such a massive impact on me; I'm genuinely saddened by this news. I don't think there's anyone in the world whose films I've be more excited to see. I don't think I'm so unabashedly a "fan" of anyone else.

My favorite Edward Yang scene -- which is close to saying my favorite scene, period -- takes place about halfway through Yi Yi. It's the scene where Yang-Yang, overwhelmed by the events of his family, and kind of naively-crushing on his schoolmate (who he has learned is a good swimmer) decides he will let himself into an unsupervised city pool. To...? Beyond the verb of "swim" it's unclear what his motives are. He's only about 7 or so, I think. Now, as the film's larger events unwind around and past him, his private pursuit of The Girl has gained an eerie seriousness in his mind. And the moment he jumps into the pool -- wholly unobserved -- the stakes of his life flare super-real to us. I think it's impossible to be unaware and unaffected by his danger, by Yang-Yang's self-inflicted peril for such tiny and improbable gains. What does he stand to receive, after all? To be a little like the girl he secretly adores?

It's as he jumps in alone that he's transformed from a strange little boy into a great, symbolic thing: not just the comic ape whose antics we've come to love, but every audience member’s total heart. The silly, soft-infected child who’d risk his life to understand his (secret) girl a little better. It’s doubtful there's not another moment in cinema that's been able to evoke such a paternalistic fear and compassion. And it's all so perfectly conducted! Yang Yang ends up fine. He's just a little boy swimming, after all. And in the next scene we see him, happy as a clam, we feel a little silly for going so far into our paranoia. The best part of all, of course, as that this is all accomplished with only incidental sound, in a few seconds, and with the technical restrain for which Yang is rightly acclaimed..

I don’t mean this by way of formal analysis, or considered eulogy. Just as a quick nod to my model and hero. To Edward Yang, glittering lodestone of cinema’s kind and loving potential future.


remy bean, Monday, 16 July 2007 05:02 (fifteen years ago) link

It’s doubtful there's not another moment in cinema that's been able to evoke such a paternalistic fear and compassion.

I love you Yang ;_;

remy bean, Monday, 16 July 2007 05:05 (fifteen years ago) link

eight months pass...

"Strange... Why are we afraid of the first time? Every day in life is a first time. Every morning is new. We never live the same day twice. We are never afraid of getting up every morning…



Steve Shasta, Wednesday, 9 April 2008 22:58 (fourteen years ago) link

one year passes...

saw 'a brighter summer day' in a new(? and occasionally too soft) print today - a weird lighting mishap meant it started half an hour later than it was supposed to (some of the lights stayed on through the first half hr of the film or so). tech glitches aside, this was absolutely magnificent, so rich and subtle and rewarding on so many levels and i resented having to take a bathroom break halfway through.

also they announced an upcoming yang retro for w/in the next year at lincoln center - color me officially STOKED

i am a big fan of japanese women (donna rouge), Monday, 1 March 2010 03:34 (twelve years ago) link

one year passes...

yang retro at BFI in London, in september. i'll probably make a brighter summer day, at least, on account of my guilt of having missed it projected some other times.

jpeg 2000 (schlump), Wednesday, 27 July 2011 11:05 (eleven years ago) link

a retro will be traveling around USA but mostly via HD video; taiwanese couldn't pony up for 35mm prints. boo.

by another name (amateurist), Wednesday, 27 July 2011 21:11 (eleven years ago) link

i wonder what'll happen with the films now, re: 'home video'. like i think after the cinema foundation restored ABSD people figured it'd be criterion, but i think a few of the others now exist in reasonable quality, too, in asia.

jpeg 2000 (schlump), Wednesday, 27 July 2011 21:17 (eleven years ago) link

two months pass...

Ws just thinking about seeing Yi Yi. Really need to make time for this.

xyzzzz__, Sunday, 2 October 2011 12:35 (eleven years ago) link

i wimped out of a brighter summer's day again, because of $$ & time &c. so just oughtta wait for it to come out.

schlump, Sunday, 2 October 2011 13:43 (eleven years ago) link

Had no idea he was dead.

Jeff, Sunday, 2 October 2011 14:00 (eleven years ago) link

So yeah Yi Yi was a great 3 hours. Really pissed I missed a couple of other ones in this season that will be much harder to see in future, as that film is an acknowledged masterpiece, which should guarantee a bunch of screenings (in London) every now and then.

Liked that it had its own pacing - at nearly 3 hrs I thought it wd be quie slow but it wasn't at all. Complex plotting but it never felt like it. Expectations of behaviour and where it might be go were shot down a few times.

Remy's description of the swimming pool scene was wonderful - it never ramps up the kid's cuteness (which is a trope I hate in a lot of cinema) until the end, but his speech is brilliant writing.

xyzzzz__, Sunday, 9 October 2011 10:22 (eleven years ago) link

terrorizers was fucking great, really intricate construction, don't sleep on that one people

flesh, the devil, and a wolf (wolf) (amateurist), Sunday, 9 October 2011 12:08 (eleven years ago) link

two years pass...

am seeing a bright summers day this week. am praying the 4 hour length doesnt seem tedious. (did really like the terrorizer though, found it quite bewildering, but in a really likeable, rather than irritating way).

StillAdvance, Sunday, 24 August 2014 23:37 (eight years ago) link

lol I didn't realize it was four hours!

xyzzzz__, Monday, 25 August 2014 10:03 (eight years ago) link


A Brighter Summer Day shares the breadth of ambition and distanced, objective point of view of Hou Xiaoxian's 1989 allusive social panorama A City of Sadness (Beiqing Chengshi)

this does not bode well.

StillAdvance, Monday, 25 August 2014 10:29 (eight years ago) link

wish the BFI were just showing yi yi lol

StillAdvance, Monday, 25 August 2014 10:30 (eight years ago) link

Firstly I just think it's a funny coincidence that (as of opening this thread) the Edward Yang and Hou Hsiao-hsien threads are right next to each other.

Second, A Brighter Summer's Day is totally not tedious! I found it a lot more engaging than Yi Yi, but that's just me.

ed.b, Tuesday, 26 August 2014 00:45 (eight years ago) link

Thanks Ed, will try and see it on Friday..

xyzzzz__, Tuesday, 26 August 2014 10:06 (eight years ago) link

nine months pass...

On Saturday, September 5th at 11:30pm (Pacific), Edward Yang’s A Brighter Summer Day is scheduled to play on TCM!


tender is the late-night daypart (schlump), Thursday, 25 June 2015 13:34 (seven years ago) link

two months pass...

i saw taipei story yesterday. was a bit tired so perhaps not the best state to see it, but i liked it much more than brighter summers day, which i liked but i think didnt quite add up to what a film of that magnitude and sprawl should do. the measuredness is less dominant. it was a bit like an understated hong kong movie, with interesting themes about migration, nationality, work, careers, existential concerns. cool to see HHH in there too. i find his and HHHs work a bit too delicate at times, a bit too precious, or just a little too interested in making everything just so, but its as good as terrorizers. now i just need to finally see yi yi.

StillAdvance, Thursday, 17 September 2015 11:15 (seven years ago) link

obv, its about modernisation too, though for all the antonioni comparisons, which do fit, i think taipei story is a warmer work, less cold and detached, though about some of the same themes. watching it also made me think that yeah if ABSD gets a criterion release, great, but just because a film is an epic event, it doesnt necessarily mean its the directors best film, and it woudl be a shame if taipei story remained unseen, while harder to watch films like summer can be seen

StillAdvance, Thursday, 17 September 2015 12:08 (seven years ago) link

three months pass...

comin out

CAROL (schlump), Friday, 18 December 2015 16:38 (six years ago) link

party at my house

CAROL (schlump), Friday, 18 December 2015 16:38 (six years ago) link

four weeks pass...


The burrito of ennui (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Friday, 15 January 2016 21:55 (six years ago) link

one month passes...

a brighter summer day - pretty fantastic

, Sunday, 13 March 2016 00:12 (six years ago) link

one month passes...

Got it at home. Anyone wanna offer their experience?

The burrito of ennui (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Thursday, 19 May 2016 21:00 (six years ago) link

four weeks pass...

caught taipei story during a retro a few years ago and loved it. man, really wish criterion would put that one out as well... only copies I've been able to find online have been mega compressed and sourced from a poor copy to being with. unwatchable T__T

(⊙_⊙?) (original bgm), Monday, 27 June 2016 18:24 (six years ago) link

one year passes...

Taipei Story on Filmstuck.

morning wood truancy (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Saturday, 11 November 2017 20:28 (five years ago) link

six months pass...

London folks, Close Up is showing Yi-Yi, A Brighter Summer Day and Taipei Story (!) over the next couple of weeks.


devvvine, Thursday, 31 May 2018 22:40 (four years ago) link

loved Taipei Story, captures the sense of overwhelming urban ennui with so much tact, empathy and humour. honestly the goat.

devvvine, Monday, 4 June 2018 12:35 (four years ago) link

I watched and loved Taipei Story[ on Filmstruck in March

morning wood truancy (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Monday, 4 June 2018 12:57 (four years ago) link

holy shit thank you devvvine

illegal economic migration (Tracer Hand), Monday, 4 June 2018 13:16 (four years ago) link

you're welcome, understand posting it at 20 to midnight maybe not the best way to get uk'ers attention but was hoping it would be great news for someone else as well!

devvvine, Monday, 4 June 2018 13:18 (four years ago) link

Yeah I got it in the second World Cinema Foundation box. The scene where the architect muses on how he doesn't even care anymore whether any of the buildings around him were designed by him, because everything has to look the same - that felt very much like what my friends who're architects say now.

Daniel_Rf, Monday, 4 June 2018 13:19 (four years ago) link

passed by Close-up yesterday and Taipei story was sold out but I'll try and see it next Monday.

xyzzzz__, Monday, 4 June 2018 18:48 (four years ago) link

This would've been tremendously exciting if they were 35mm prints

beamish13, Monday, 4 June 2018 19:33 (four years ago) link

nine months pass...

saw A Brighter Summer Day, it was really something. wonder if Taipei Story is going to become available on the Criterion Channel

Dan S, Tuesday, 2 April 2019 06:55 (three years ago) link

taipei story is depressing as fuck, with one disturbingly ebullient sequence that makes the rest all the bleaker. i loved it.

affects breves telnet (Gummy Gummy), Tuesday, 2 April 2019 06:56 (three years ago) link

I saw Taipei Story on MUBI two years ago.

recriminations from the nitpicking woke (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Tuesday, 2 April 2019 11:22 (three years ago) link

saw Yi Yi again recently after almost 20 years. I liked everything about it except the instrumental music that opened the film (fortunately featured only in the first 5 minutes). I remember in 2000 liking its sentimentality, but viewing it again there are also a lot more scenes of strife and general unhappiness than I had remembered

Dan S, Monday, 15 April 2019 23:21 (three years ago) link

one month passes...

pretty incredible season at close up in london next month feat yang, hou and tsai


devvvine, Sunday, 26 May 2019 20:09 (three years ago) link

holy shit!

Lil' Brexit (Tracer Hand), Sunday, 26 May 2019 20:50 (three years ago) link

Would happily spend all of June watching that.

zama roma ding dong (Eric H.), Sunday, 26 May 2019 20:57 (three years ago) link

Just watched Stray Dogs, it really does away with any kind of continuity in the story, doesn't it? I was confused by one of the main characters being played by three different women

Dan S, Monday, 27 May 2019 00:40 (three years ago) link

I loved it

Dan S, Monday, 27 May 2019 00:40 (three years ago) link

sorry, would have been better to post this in the Tsai thread

Dan S, Monday, 27 May 2019 00:43 (three years ago) link

Every thread can do with a bit of raving over Stray Dogs. Such a great film.

Frederik B, Monday, 27 May 2019 08:50 (three years ago) link

Awesome season I will definitely get round to a couple of these

xyzzzz__, Monday, 27 May 2019 09:00 (three years ago) link

gonna try and be at as much as i can afford

devvvine, Monday, 27 May 2019 12:41 (three years ago) link

So jealous of that London exhibition. Watched Goodbye Dragon Inn last night; gorgeous. Still haunted by the TML Stray Dogs exhibition/installation I saw in Guangzhou that I posted about in the Tsai thread:


etc, Monday, 27 May 2019 23:58 (three years ago) link

Will book "A Brighter Summer Day" tonight

xyzzzz__, Wednesday, 29 May 2019 06:22 (three years ago) link

that day, on the beach - summed up in the line "time is overwhelming", layer upon layer of recollection, only made denser by an astonishing use of sound. maybe his angriest film? second half especially defined by seething contempt for the amorality of the rising capitalist class and the generation that created them.

devvvine, Sunday, 2 June 2019 10:43 (three years ago) link

greatest to ever do it

devvvine, Sunday, 2 June 2019 11:07 (three years ago) link

three years pass...

Watched A Brighter Summer Day on Criterion Channel — spread out my viewing over a few days, which I almost think is better because it let the story and characters sink in a little more. I thought it was great. Beautifully made, first of all, it completely immerses you in that particular time and place. The length gives him time to limn details and settings, I started to feel like I could form a map of the neighborhoods in my head. Like Amarcord or My Life as a Dog, it lays some universal coming-of-age themes over a very particular context. But it's less sentimental or forgiving than either of those, these are characters unmoored from their home, in perpetual states of grievance of one kind or another, and living under an inflexible authoritarianism that makes itself felt in small ways and then large ones. I've seen it compared to Rebel Without a Cause, but West Side Story was the first obvious reference that sprang to mind for me. And then by extension obv Romeo and Juliet, there's definitely a Shakespearean arc to the whole thing. Terrific performances. Quite a film.

Yi Yi is the only other one of his I've seen, definitely want to see Taipei Story.

I've seen all but his first two features, and Mahjong is the only one which was disappointing.

Halfway there but for you, Monday, 21 November 2022 04:00 (five days ago) link

Yi Yi is the only other one of his I've seen, definitely want to see Taipei Story.

― a man often referred to in the news media as the Duke of Saxony (tipsy mothra),

I suspect you'll have the same response. Taipei Story boasts an even better sense of geography.

Malevolent Arugula (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Monday, 21 November 2022 10:29 (five days ago) link

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