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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.
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).