Yi Yi

(A One and a Two, Edward Yang, Taiwan, 2000)


Edward Yang's Yi Yi is remarkable and only truly appreciable on a big screen. It's easy to see why the film has been hailed by many mainstream critics for its slightly unexpected humanism (complete with a cute kid) and how this has led to its worldwide success.

But this should not divert us from grasping its profound connections with Yang's earlier work, especially the underrated social satires A Confucian Confusion (1994) and Mahjong (1997).

Yang, like several of his Taiwanese contemporaries, bases his dramas on the material flows of real estate as much as on the intangible paradoxes of the heart.

In Yi Yi Yang builds a complex structure in which each relationship echoes each other across generations (shades here, in a minor key, of Douglas Sirk's All That Heaven Allows, 1955), and where the compartmentalisations, criss-crossings and telescopings of architectural space play a capital role.

Many reviewers seem to mentally erase the film's deliberately strangest and most disturbing moment: the video-game style 'dramatic recreation' on the nightly TV news of an unseen murder involving two peripheral characters – a moment closer in its method to Michael Haneke's dramatic essay-films than any sentimental humanism with which I am familiar.

© Adrian Martin May 2001

Film Critic: Adrian Martin
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