A One And A Two… (Yi Yi)

Edward Yang’s most accessible movie is also his best since A Brighter Summer Day, displaying a comparable mastery that won him the prize for best direction in Cannes. In keeping with the musical connotation of the English title, the thematic counterpoint between generations is as adroit as the focus on a single generation was in his earlier masterpiece. Beginning with a wedding and ending with a funeral in the same contemporary Taipei family, the film takes almost three hours to unfold, and not a moment seems gratuitous or squandered. Working again with nonprofessional actors, Yang coaxes a standpout lead performance from Wu Nienjen (a major screenwriter and director in his own right) as a middle-aged partner in a failing computer company who has a secret Tokyo rendez-vous with a former girlfriend he jilted 30 years ago, now living in Chicago, while trying to team up professionally with a Japanese games designer. (The chats between the latter two are all in English, and Yang’s own background in American computers serves him well.) Other major characters include the hero’s spiritually traumatized wife, her comatose mother, his pregnant sister and her debt-ridden husband, his teenage daughter, and his eight-year-old son. The lattera comic and unsentimental marvel named Yang-Yangmay come closest to serving as Yang’s own mouthpiece; the kid becomes obsessed with photographing what people can’t see, such as the backs of their own heads, which comprises for him the half of reality that’s missed. Yang, one comes to feel, misses nothing, thanks to the interweave of shifting viewpoints and poignant emotional refrains. Cutting between the absent-mindedness of three family members in the opening sequence and orchestrating comparable thematic rhymes later, he makes his family one of the richest in modern movieswith the deepest impacts made by the oldest and youngest members, like the top and bottom notes in a musical scale. 173 min. (JR)

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