Ostensibly inspired by a documentary on a German terrorist group, Edward Yang’s austere third feature discovers, hidden within the stillness of human emotion, a terror far more brutal than any moment of physical violence. Bookended by images of guns and corpses, the film’s true focus is on the violence enacted in everyday relationships, whether between lovers, coworkers, or strangers. The narrative weaves intricately among three scattered groups of characters: a doctor and his novelist wife, a mopey female hoodlum, and a love-struck photographer, all threaded together by one prank phone call and a sense of deceit and lingering entropy. Yang said the film was “built rather like a puzzle; the spectator can rearrange it in his head when he gets home.” It is the inescapable feeling, not the telling, of the story that matters. Indeed, the gunshots at the beginning and end seem interchangeable, almost anticlimactic, rendered quaintly obsolete by the film’s painstakingly traumatic layering of human relations and their emotional violence. —BAM/PFA
Though largely unknown in the West, Edward Yang emerged, over the course of two decades, as one of international cinema’s most distinctive voices and, along with Hou Hsiao Hsien, one of Taiwan’s finest filmmakers. Born in Shanghai in 1947, Yang fled with his family to Taiwan during the tumult of the Chinese Civil War. At a young age, he found creative inspiration in Japanese comic books and soon began writing his own works. In 1974, having received an advanced degree in Computer Science at Florida State University, he went on to study film at the University of Southern California. He quickly grew disillusioned with the program’s commercial emphasis, however, and withdrew after only one semester. He remained in America, working as a computer expert for several years. During this time, he kindled his passion for cinema by writing a script and aiding the production of the Hong Kong television movie Winter of 1905 (1981). Upon his return to Taiwan, he directed a number of television shows… read more
There's so many great things about this film. It's a portrait of an over-industrialized society, but more importantly, a complex and powerful look at the destructive results of human relationships. And oh yeah, it's freaking gorgeous to look at too. A great start to my exploration of Yang and one of the truest films I've ever seen.
Yang’s creative ethos is summed up by two of his lesser known films: A Confucian Confusion and Mahjong .