Thursday 13 December 2012

A Brighter Summer Day [1991]

Made by famed Taiwanese filmmaker Edward Yang, known mostly for his final feature Yi Yi, A Brighter Summer Day was as much a rich socio-political critique as it was a highly personal expression. In 1961 Taiwan woke up to the first incidence of capital punishment for juvenile homicide. Yang used that incident for an epic exploration of extreme alienation, antipathy, and the consequent delinquency, among second-generation Chinese youths in the country, on account of a deep sense of rootlessness and apathy of the powers that be. The plot skeleton dealt with the teenage days of a soft-spoken school student called Si’r (Chang Chen), involving his close-knit family – comprising of his parents and his siblings, his Elvis-loving best friend, his tryst with the pervading gang violence, and his growing relationship with Ming (Lisa Yang), a girl with emotional issues of her own, which leads him towards a path of self-destruction. The film comprised of a number of side stories, the most telling among which was the tragic detention of Si’r father by the secret police. The mammoth 4-hour running time, the sprawling multi-character narrative, the leisurely pacing, the incredibly bleak and disconcerting tone, the deliberate underplaying of dramatic moments, and the complex socio-political contextualization that didn’t spell anything out in black and white, ensure that this isn’t an easy watch; but those willing to expend the minimum effort that it calls for, would experience a beautifully nuanced and richly detailed film with audacious scope, bravura storytelling and a subtly affecting sense of sadness and loss. In fact, though stylistically very different, thematically it can be considered as a companion piece to a number of Angelopoulos’ works.

Director: Edward Yang
Genre: Drama/Coming-of-Age/Political Drama
Language: Taiwanese/Mandarin
Country: Taiwan

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