A Brighter Summer Day

dir. Edward Yang

TIFF Cinematheque - Retrospective

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Inspired by a real-life 1960s murder case, Edward Yang's novelistic epic ranks with Hou Hsiao-hsien's A City of Sadness as the crowning achievement of the Taiwanese New Wave.

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Inspired by a real-life 1960s murder case, Edward Yang’s novelistic epic ranks with Hou Hsiao-hsien’s A City of Sadness as the crowning achievement of the Taiwanese New Wave. Its title derived from the mistranslated lyrics of Elvis Presley’s "Are You Lonesome Tonight?", A Brighter Summer Day focuses on Xiao Si’r (Chang Chen), an intelligent but underachieving high school student who becomes involved with a local street gang. When Si’r falls for Ming (Lisa Yang), the girlfriend of imprisoned gang leader Cat (Wong Chizan), her seemingly innate inconstancy pushes him further and further into an unhealthy obsession. Forgoing the more assertive modernism of The Terrorizers, Yang ingeniously uses his small-scale story to create a portrait of a whole society gripped by a perpetual identity crisis: the elder generation still attached to the war-ridden Mainland they forsook for a Taiwan now under the repressive thumb of the Nationalists, the younger generation knowing nothing but their island home and resentfully reacting against their parents’ nostalgia with aimless, no-future nihilism. "[A Brighter Summer Day] belongs in the company of key works of our era ... richly realizing a physical and social world as dense with family, community, and other personal ties as any John Ford film, and furnished with more sheer physical presence (including characters, settings, and objects) than any other fiction film I know of from the nineties" (Jonathan Rosenbaum, Chicago Reader).