A wedding and a grandmother's illness reveal fault lines in the lives of one Taipei family in Edward Yang's extraordinary film. Yi Yi is built from deceptively simple elements that together create a complex, warm, and utte... more »rly convincing portrait of family life. NJ Jian is a businessman facing bankruptcy, but he has to juggle his financial problems with family strife when his mother-in-law falls into a coma. NJ's wife, Min-Min, brings her mother home, and each family member--including daughter Ting-Ting and her delightful little brother Yang-Yang--spends hours talking to the old lady. These conversations become confessionals and the characters gradually re-evaluate their relationships. There are no catastrophic conflicts, only the ordinary, sometimes troubled, unfolding of lives. Yang enhances the film's sense of reality by frequently holding the camera back from the action. The use of long shots and unexpected angles makes it seem like the audience is eavesdropping, catching glimpses of lives passing by. Yi Yi is almost three hours long, but it flies by. Yang is both a consummate, restrained technician and a subtle director of actors. The combination is a magical one. --Simon Leake On the DVD
The Criterion Collection's newly restored high-definition digital transfer of Edward Yang's Yi Yi is a revelation. The improvement over Fox Lorber's previous DVD release (deeply flawed and rushed into distribution in 2001, and now utterly obsolete) is so dramatic that an entire article was devoted to the subject in the New York Times, explaining the meticulous processes that went into perfecting the new DVD master for Criterion's definitive release. And while the feature-length commentary by writer-director Edward Yang and Asian-cinema critic Tony Rayns may be a bit too low-key for some listeners (because both Yang and Rayns are soft-spoken and not particularly dynamic speakers), attentive listeners will benefit greatly from their back-and-forth conversation. Yang provides in-depth insights into many aspects of Taiwanese cinema in general and Yi Yi in particular, from the hardships of distribution, competition from American films, his casting choices, explanations of specific shots, challenges and "happy accidents" during production, and various details regarding Taiwanese culture, its relation to Chinese and Japanese culture, and the familial traditions that are so affectionately explored in Yi Yi. Rayns is basically on hand to prompt Yang into making directorial observations, or to provide critical insights and observations for Yang to respond to. Both men are genial, intelligent, and articulate, so their commentary is well worth listening to for anyone interested in Asian cinema in a cultural context. Rayns is featured individually in an informative video interview in which the noted Asian cinema expert explains the historical context which brought about the "New Taiwan Cinema" movement in the early 1980s. He goes into deeper detail about Edward Yang's significance to the movement, along with other important Taiwanese directors such as Hou Hsiao-hsien and Tsai Ming-liang, and examines how Yang's films (especially Yi Yi) are particularly distinctive, notably in their use of urban settings, reflections, and distant, immobile camera angles to emphasize character and behavior. Film Comment editor Kent Jones further elaborates on the qualities of Yi Yi in his enclosed booklet essay (particularly Yang's exquisite use of Taipei locations and his subtle sensitivity to the rhythms of urban living in "a film about grace"). In "Notes from Edward Yang," the director provides additional printed comments about the film's title (which literally translates as "one-one" and means "individually" in Chinese), the challenges of casting, and specific details and milestones in Yi Yi's production schedule. Overall, these details should prove highly useful to western viewers seeking to gain a greater appreciation for Yang's highly regarded masterpiece. --Jeff Shannon« less
"Once in a while you walk out of the theatre and you find yourself giving a big sigh. When that happens, it's not because you're tired about a movie you just have seen. On the contrary. In my case it means that I just experienced an artform that cannot be compared with any other kind of art. Yi Yi is a good example of this. For those who watch carefully, they will discover that the story of Yi Yi is not more than a saga, perhaps even a soap plot of a ordinary middle class family in Taipei. But those who have patience to go beyond the facade of the ordinary, they will see a movie dealing about individualism, childhood, commitments, second chances, urban loneliness, broken promises, families, despair and death. But Yi Yi also shows us the small qualities of life: humour, laugther, life questions posed by a diligent and intelligent young kid, first love, courage, the meaning of life and the search for happiness. But Yi Yi is told without the explosivity of American Beauty. Instead, we witness (instead of watching passively) most of the narrative through windows and doors. Just as we're the neighbours of the protagonists of this film. Sometimes we will find ourselves shedding a tear. Sometimes we laugh. And that, my friend, is the reality of life. Shame that this one was overlooked by the Academy Award Association. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon couldn't be a match to this one."
Fox Lorber's DVD is not even worth buying
Robert L. Edwards | Washington DC USA | 12/26/2001
(1 out of 5 stars)
"Although Edward Yang's "Yi-yi" is a great film, Fox Lorber's DVD release is a disservice to the film. I had heard rumors that the DVD was substandard, but I so wanted to see the film again that I ordered it. Unfortunately everything I had heard was true. The transfer is blurry throughout, and on every near-horizontal surface there is distracting shimmering. It is so bad that you can even see foreground objects moving against the background, when they shouldn't, which is indicative of substandard encoding. AVOID THIS DVD AT ALL COSTS!"
A slow-burning masterpiece
Kwoks | 06/12/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Ostensibly, Edward Yang's Yi Yi (A one and a two) is a movie focusing on a family in contemporary Taipei, living through exceptional and unexceptional challenges that any one of us might be confronted with. But what the film really succeeds in capturing through its characters and events is the enormity of human existence; the challenges and rewards of living on this earth. It does so in a slow, penetrating manner that works its magic during the film, but even more so once after the film has ended. The movie is rich with well developed characters and subplots that justify its three hour length. Yet in the course of all the seemingly tumultuous events that take place, little changes in the long term once the credits roll. But then, everything has changed; the movie begins with a wedding, tosses in a birth in the middle, and ends with a funeral. In between all these greater moments are the smaller though no less important things in life that almost every one of us can relate to at some level; love lost, regret, guilt, second chances, self-expression, happiness, sadness. The movies ambitions seem almost epic until you realize that there is nothing 'epic' about this family and its interactions. That is where the magic of this film really lies. Cultural differences don't matter here; you can always find a way to relate to Yang's characters through their common humanity. For many, we see emotional reservation, but Yang is able to expose even these characters through their confessions to their grandmother, who is comatose after a stroke. And then there is Yang Yang, the little boy of the family who is able to expose the nature of truth and exploration in a way only a little boy could. I suppose that the thing that I enjoyed most about this film is that, even after seeing it a few days ago, I grow to appreciate it more, even as I write this review. Yi Yi is just an amazing film, perhaps the best ever made about a family, but to classify it as such is wrong. The movie is really a mirror; it is a beleivable, honest reminder of how life can be wonderful, and a pain, all at the same time."
Art at its most inspired and inspiring
Robert Bezimienny | Sydney, NSW Australia | 07/26/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Cinema doesn't get any better than this. If you haven't seen this film then don't hesitate - buy the DVD right now, and play it when you're most in need of inspiration - it will dispel any doubts you might harbour about the power of film, the worth of art. The ability of Edward Yang to fuse imagination with, it must be assumed, an amazing honesty in reflecting upon his own life, to share what he holds most dear, and what evokes the most wonder, is something we, as an audience, can only marvel at and give thanks for. To say that 'Yi-Yi' inhabits the points of view of a child, an adolescent, an adult, a parent, a matriarch, the points of view of both male and female, that of the earnest, the honest, the ironic and idealistic, is to say that it truly touches upon life's richness. At one point in the film a character comments that films allow us to live life three times over, that's to say, they show us three times as much life as we could live by ourselves - most films give lie to this optimism, but 'Yi-Yi' itself makes such a statemest seem miserly. One of the best films I've ever seen."
A Beautiful Chinese Film!
Robert L. Edwards | 05/31/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Yi yi (A One and A Two) is a wonderful, intriguing film in its own rights. The movie focuses on the intertwining lives of a modern Chinese family living in Taipei, Taiwan. At the beginning, a wedding takes place. After the wedding, things start happening.There's the father, who's part of a major computer games business, who might go bankrupt unless they strike a deal with a company. The father, NJ, is faced with trust and honesty when he meets the Japanese owner of Ota, a games company. His friends are also thinking about meeting up with Ato, the copycat of Ota. His wife, is going through a mid-life crisis type situation. Her mother just had a stroke and has a coma. The doctor says that Grandmother can only hear what they say, but it will help her feel better. So, the wife is thinking that her life is empty and retreats to a peaceful mountain for answers. Their children are going through major changes too. The oldest daughter, Ting Ting, is learning how to love when her friend, Lili, dumps her boyfriend. When Lili's ex-boyfriend starts dating Ting Ting, she has to learn the consequences of breaking up. Her little brother, Yang Yang, is 8 years old and always getting into trouble at school. A girl at school is the object of his affections, and he learns too, about his first love. This film can definitely change the way you perceive life. It did that to me too. Some people take things for granted. Yi yi is meant to be a movie about simplicity, and I think that's what it is."