4. “A Brighter Summer Day”, Edward Yang (1991)

Part of The 100 Greatest Movies I’ve Ever Seen list.


A Brighter Summer Day aka 牯嶺街少年殺人事件 aka Gǔlǐng jiē shàonián shārén shìjiàn

dir. Edward Yang scr. Edward Yang, Hong-ya Yan, Ming-tang Lai, Shun-ching Yang cin. Hui-kung Chang and Long-yu Zhang with Chang Chen, Chang Kuo-chu, Elaine Jin, Lisa Yang, Wong Chizan, Lawrence Ko, Tan Zhigang, Lin Hung-ming, Wang Chuan, Chang Han, Chiang Hsiu-chiung, Stephanie Lai

In 100 words: The greatest triumph of  Yang’s short filmography is this tragic coming-of-age film drawn on an epic canvass. The novelistic script deftly juggles a lot of plotlines, motifs and themes: I loved its clear-eyed depiction of the tense post-war period in Taiwan and the confused identities of the kids and their families that lived during that dark age. Items hold enormous significance while images sustain awe and power. Even better is the breadth of details he imbues in characters as indelible as an Elvis-loving falsetto singer or a reformed gangster or a sad and hardened girlfriend just trying to survive. Perfection.

Other Movies for Context: If it wasn’t clear from the three movies he had here, Edward Yang is like a big fucking deal to me. This is his best and the best of an era. I think a lot of Chen Kaige’s Farewell My Concubine which has a similar scale to this and even the intimacy that sometimes is lacking in films this long (4 hours!) or with this many characters.

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