A BRIGHTER SUMMER DAY.

I can shoehorn this into LH by mentioning that unlike most foreign movies, Edward Yang‘s masterpiece (according to an interview I read, or perhaps according to the critic who introduced the film as his own choice for best overlooked movie of the 1990s at a Museum of the Moving Image festival over a decade ago) was originally titled in English, A Brighter Summer Day, and Yang then came up with what he considered a less adequate Chinese title (牯嶺街少年殺人事件 Guling jie shaonian sha ren shijian, “The Boy in the Murder Incident on Guling Street”). But the fact is I just want to shamelessly plug one of the greatest movies I’ve ever seen. Yes, it’s four hours long, and it takes a while to get going, and it references a lot of obscure (outside Taiwan) history, but if you’re a movie lover in Manhattan, where it’s very belatedly making its official US debut, you owe it to yourself to see it. Here‘s A.O. Scott’s review in yesterday’s NY Times, and here‘s a thoughtful Reverse Shot piece by Andrew Chan, which explains the English title in its final paragraph:

The second pun lies in the title itself: a humorous mistranscription of the phrase “a bright summer day” from Elvis Presley’s “Are You Lonesome Tonight?,” which one of Xiao Si’r’s friends is learning to sing.

If a Region 1 DVD ever comes out (I believe there was a Chinese one at some point), it’s going straight on my Amazon wishlist. (Criterion, are you listening?)

Comments

  1. Bob Violence says:

    There’s never been a legitimate DVD of this. Any DVD you find is going to be a bootleg sourced from the laserdisc release. Criterion had it on their schedule, but it’s mired in rights issues (as is much of Yang’s work — Lincoln Center just announced that their That Day, on the Beach screening has been downgraded to a 16mm print because of “an ongoing legal matter”). Fortunately his brilliant Terrorizers and Yi Yi have escaped this and have great Blu-ray editions.

  2. Yeesh, four hours? I think not. Out beyond two hours, sitting in a dark room usually puts me to sleep, especially if the action is less than riveting. I think I’ll read a book in a brightly lit room instead.

  3. John, there’s no rule that says you have to watch it, or any film, in one sitting. Treat it as a 4 episode mini series.

  4. There is if I’m seeing it in a movie theater, which is what Hat is suggesting.

  5. sitting in a dark room usually puts me to sleep
    It’s only because the oxygen gets used up. Trot round the block a couple of times during the break (they nearly always have a break – I know about this, I’ve seen both Shoah and Berlin Alexanderplatz).

  6. I saw Shoah in the theater too, or most of it. Fell asleep during one of the little train sequences, woke up during another. Taped it to watch in parts, never did.

  7. rootlesscosmo says:

    Some region-specific DVD players (I don’t know about newer Blu-Ray ones) can be reprogrammed to be region-free. The codes are already in the machine; do a search on relevant terms and you’ll find sites that specify them and explain how to use them. As far as I know this is completely legal–you’re just using a feature of the player, although one that shuns daylight.

  8. Thank you, rootless. That’s good to know.

  9. Falling asleep is only half the story. From the Scott review: “It is a crowded, complex crime story that is also a tale of sexual awakening and an understated exercise in kitchen-sink realism.” Sexual awakening in the kitchen sink ?? What can they have been up to ?

  10. Haven’t you read I Capture The Castle? “I write this sitting in the kitchen sink.”

  11. Haven’t read it, but I will. I probably shouldn’t say this but, nostalgically speaking, kitchen tables are more conducive to such awakenings than are the sinks.

  12. Thank you for turning me on to Edward Yang. I’ve just watched Yi Yi and it’s one of two movies I can remember seeing that have made me want to cry. Pain in every frame, but also the aching beauty of real life that helps us maintain. The characters are the most complete versions of modern people I have ever seen portrayed in any medium.
    The other movie, by the way, was Michael Haneke’s Seventh Continent. But whereas Haneke forces modern life into a mold to express the pain of living and left me feeling depressed, Yang just shows the parts of life that inspire both depression and joy and left me feeling understood. Thank you.

  13. Your comment made me very happy. If I’ve turned just one person on to the genius of Yang, this blog has not been in vain.

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