There is a certain feeling that one feels when watching an Edward Yang film. It’s a mixture of both sadness and joy. The sadness stems from knowing Yang’s short lived career has only given us eight films, but the joy kicks in when you realize these are eight of the greatest films in existence. Of the three Yang films I’ve seen prior to A Brighter Summer Day, Yi Yi, is my favorite. Yang’s capabilities of bring life to his characters, to keep his audience on edge sans typical suspense film tropes. We are the voyeur, and we’re watching Yang’s world.
A Brighter Summer Day is nothing short of brilliant. While Yang’s films always feel personal, as if he’s emotionally connected in some way to his characters, Summer Day feels like his most personal. Following Xiao Si’r felt as if I was following an older version of Yang (granted with a brighter future.) In addition to the self inflicted problems of Xiao Si’r, we’re allowed a glimpse into his family during a tumultuous time. And throughout the 237 minute run time, nothing is ever clear until you’ve finished it. Names are said, but you never really know who is who. I didn’t figure out one character’s name until three hours in (Cat), and not at the detriment of the film. In actuality, it makes me want to go back and watch it again. (I’ll wait for the newly renovated World Cinema Foundation restoration.)
As usual, I daren’t delve deeper into the story, because I hate ruining things for people, but this is a film that can’t be missed.