A Movie Log

A blog formerly known as Bookishness

By Charles Matthews

Thursday, August 10, 2017

A Brighter Summer Day (Edward Yang, 1991)

Lisa Yang and Chen Chang in A Brighter Summer Day
Xiao Si'r: Chen Chang
Ming: Lisa Yang
Father: Kuo-Chu Chang
Mother: Elaine Jin
Eldest Sister: Chuan Wang
Older Brother (Lao Er): Han Chang
Middle Sister: Hsiu-Chiung Chiang
Youngest Sister: Stephanie Lai
Cat: Chi-tsan Wang
Honey: Hung-Ming Lin

Director: Edward Yang
Screenplay: Hung Hung, Mingtang Lai, Alex Yang, Edward Yang
Cinematography: Hui Kung Chang, Longyu Zhang
Production design: Wei-Yen Yu
Film editing: Po-Wen Chen

Any four-hour film is going to be immersive, but for me, A Brighter Summer Day was a bit like being taught to swim by being thrown into the deep end of the pool. There are so many characters and the political, social, and cultural milieu of Taiwan in 1960 is so foreign to me, that it took at least the first hour to get my bearings. I think it's no accident that Tolstoy's War and Peace, another vastly immersive experience, is referred to twice, the first time surprisingly by the fugitive gang leader known as Honey, who was attracted to its portrait of conflict and especially by Pierre's fixation on assassinating Napoleon. A Brighter Summer Day is perhaps the closest that a film can get to the complexity of a great novel -- which doesn't necessarily make it a great film, although I think it gets pretty close to that, too. It will take another viewing, which means another four-hour block of time, for me to make that decision -- and even for me to have something concise and coherent to say about it.

Watched on Turner Classic Movies and on Filmstruck Criterion Channel (after my recording of the TCM showing fell short)

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