Yang's scathing black-comedy is at once a critique of capitalistic neo-colonialism, a metaphorical analysis in which each character is representative of something more, a meditation on struggles to escape the fates we cannot but accept and a sincere romance in a world of cheap, instant gratification and social whoring. 'Mahjong' meticulously reveals its brilliance via multiple layers of complexity and finesse.
The darker half of Yang’s comedic duology discloses an especially caustic satire of Westernized capitalism. Using structural irony together with affinity for wit and metaphor, Taipei is the colonial centre for a disenchanted humanity, a bipolarity of veracity and fakery while fixed in continual absurdity. ‘Majiang’ facilitates opposing pairs in fortune and the radical inevitability of karma.
The young hoodlums of Brighter Summer's Day 25 years on, and it's not a pretty sight. Contemporary Taiwan also comes in for a kicking. But for some there is, mercifully, a tiny bit of light at the end of this particular tunnel. I like Yang's work as much for its imperfections as for what he gets so right.
Certainly the worst of Yang's films I've seen, mostly let down by some less-than-stellar acting from the English speaking parts of the cast, but his sense of cinematic rhythm and human understanding is still unparalleled.