November 7 – November 21

ECHOES FROM TAIWAN: THE MAJOR WORKS OF EDWARD YANG

One of the wonders of late twentieth-century world cinema was the school of talented directors who emerged through the wave of “New Taiwan Cinema” and its descendants during the 1980s and early 1990s. Filmmakers such as Hou Hsiao-hsien, Chen Kun-Ho and Tsai Ming-liang reinvigorated a national cinema focusing on everyday life, the conflict between the past and the present, historical trauma, identity and rapid urbanisation.

Edward Yang (1947–2007) was also one of the leading figures in this movement at a time when Taiwan was shaking off the legacy of authoritarian rule and strict censorship. This marked the beginning of a new spirit of openness in the arts. Yang’s special contribution was his obsessive focus on capturing the feeling of sprawling contemporary city life, primarily in Taipei, where he saw a society shaped by Confucian values rushing at full speed into a hyper-capitalist future. But his piercing vision of urban anomie, drift and desolation also proved to have worldwide resonance. Yang was still a toddler when his family, like some two million other citizens, emigrated from mainland China to Taiwan after the end of the Civil War. One of the richest themes in his films would become the search for identity – personal, cultural, social and political – in the small island nation. But Yang’s work was equally concerned with such universal subjects as missed opportunities and the age-old conflicts between parents and children.

This season profiles the key films of Yang’s career, including a pair of his urgent and enigmatic portraits of the clash of histories, sensibilities and cultures in modern Taiwan – The Terrorizers and Taipei Story – alongside the sprawling “memory works” that are his defining and lasting legacy: Yi Yi and the intimate but monumental A Brighter Summer Day.

November 7

7:00pm – A BRIGHTER SUMMER DAY
Edward Yang (1991) 237 mins – Unclassified 15 +*

Yang’s intimate and epic, specific and sprawling, seemingly immemorial and urgent opus is now widely regarded as a “masterpiece of modern cinema as well as a defining work of the New Taiwan Cinema” (Godfrey Cheshire). Spanning a four-year period from 1959, this is an intimate study of a young schoolboy (Chang Chen) and his family life, as well as a tale of alienated youth set against the political, social and cultural privations of mid-century Taiwan. Both crime narrative and social drama, the film turns on the discordance and confluence of Taiwanese, Chinese and Western cultures, as found in the title’s reference to Elvis Presley’s rendition of “Are You Lonesome Tonight?” Largely unavailable since the mid-1990s, Yang’s masterful orchestration of plot, visual composition and experiential detail is seen here restored to its original epic length and full audio-visual scope.

35mm print courtesy of the Cineteca di Bologna. Restored in 2009 by The Film Foundation’s World Cinema Project at Cineteca di Bologna/L’Immagine Ritrovata in association with Central Motion Picture Corporation and the Edward Yang Estate. Restoration funding provided by Armani, Cartier, Qatar Airways, Qatar Museum Authority. Scan performed at Digimax laboratories in Taipei.

November 14

7:00pm – TAIPEI STORY
Edward Yang (1985) 119 mins – PG

This bracing portrait of urban isolation and modern malaise in a rapidly changing Taipei stars filmmaker Hou Hsiao-hsien and singer Tsai Chin (who would later marry Yang) as the middle-class couple whose relationship slowly disintegrates against the backdrop of a city caught between its new globalised modernity and traditional values. A key early work of the New Taiwan Cinema, Yang’s second feature sharply focuses on sociological observations and is imbued with a sense of loss and impending doom set amongst the neon lights and alienating urban streetscapes of the modern city.

Courtesy of the Cineteca di Bologna.



9:10pm – THE TERRORIZERS

Edward Yang (1986) 109 mins – M

Yang’s third feature is his most enigmatic, metaphysical and explicitly dark film, weaving an elliptical tapestry of cryptically interconnected urban stories. Shot through with an aura of subtle menace, the film’s emphatic embrace of modernist ambiguity, startling imagery, fractured storytelling and black-as-pitch comedy presents a bracing challenge to conventional viewer sensibilities. The city of Taipei looms as an all-encompassing presence shadowing and constraining the characters. Yang subsequently admitted the film’s complex play with the real and the fictional was even a mystery to himself.

35mm print courtesy of the Taipei Film Archive.

November 21

7:00pm – YI YI
Edward Yang (2000) 173 mins – M

Yang’s intimate epic is a bittersweet celebration of culture and life that charts the journey of a multi-generational family over the course of one year, beginning with a wedding and ending with a funeral. Each sprawling frame is imbued with a compassionate clarity that explores every character through a single, binding experience. This focus is the essence of Yang’s expansive but minutely observed final masterpiece, now widely regarded as one of the great movies of the last 20 years, a film whose profound emotional and cultural resonance brings to mind the panoramic form of Altman’s Short Cuts. It was named best film of the year by many critics including Susan Sontag and Yang received the Best Director award at Cannes. Kent Jones called it “the apotheosis of the new Taiwanese cinema”.

35mm print courtesy of the National Film and Sound Archive, Australia.

February 7–21
JEANNE MOREAU: THE FACE OF THE NOUVELLE VAGUE

February 28 – March 14
“I AM HERE AND I DON’T KNOW WHY”: THE FREE-FORM FILMMAKING OF JOHN CASSAVETES

March 21 – April 2
TWISTED NERVE: BRITISH PSYCHOLOGICAL HORROR OF THE 1960s AND 1970s

April 9 – April 25
FRANÇOIS TRUFFAUT, CHILD OF THE CINEMA

May 2
GIRLS IN UNIFORM: LANDMARKS OF LESBIAN CINEMA

May 9
COLONIAL LEGACIES – THE VIEW FROM THERE. A COLLABORATION WITH THE HUMAN RIGHTS ARTS & FILM FESTIVAL.

May 16 – May 23
WITHOUT COMPROMISE: THOM ANDERSEN’S AMERICA

May 30 – June 13
PLAYING SOLO: THE SADLY BEAUTIFUL CAREER OF MONTGOMERY CLIFT

June 20 – July 4
THE STORY OF WOMEN: THE EXTRAORDINARY CAREER OF KINUYO TANAKA

July 11 – July 25
THE NIGHT HAS A THOUSAND EYES: GERMAN EXPRESSIONISM AFTER CALIGARI

August 22 – September 5
BEYOND LEONE: THE RADICAL LAWLESSNESS OF THE SPAGHETTI WESTERN

September 12 – September 26
ORIGINAL SINS: RESISTANCE AND FEMINISM IN THE AVANT-GARDE CINEMA OF VĚRA CHYTILOVÁ

October 3
CONTESTING HISTORY: BICENTENNIAL LEGACIES

October 10 – October 31
ON DANGEROUS GROUND: IDA LUPINO, TRAILBLAZER

November 7 – November 21
ECHOES FROM TAIWAN: THE MAJOR WORKS OF EDWARD YANG

November 28 – December 5
ON BODY AND SOUL: THE PASSION ACCORDING TO AMIEL COURTIN-WILSON

December 12 – December 19
ANARCHY AND ECSTASY: THE INTERMEDIATE CINEMA OF DUŠAN MAKAVEJEV