Edward Yang was one of Taiwan's most memorable and groundbreaking auteurs, who, along with fellow filmmakers Hou Hsiao-hsien (侯孝賢) and Wan Jen (萬仁), gave rise to the 1980s movement of Taiwanese New Wave Cinema.
After years of domination by expensive propaganda films produced by the Central Motion Pictures Corporation (CMPC) in Taiwan, fresh management and an increase in living standards offered a window of opportunity to a new generation of filmmakers. This close-knit group of directors, screenwriters, and crew members were at the peak of their creativity and were driven by nothing more than a fierce will to produce something new in Taiwan cinema.
Members such as Hsiao Yeh (小野) and Wu Nien-jen (吳念真), who had earlier footholds in the film industry, would strategically promote new directors and defend the creativity of screenwriters even against the orders of their superiors. Others like Hou, who mortgaged his house to fund Yang's seminal "Taipei Story (青梅竹馬)," believed firmly in local talent.
The ensuing Taiwanese New Wave Cinema flourished for over a decade and defining issues of that era, such as the search for national identity, generational shift in lifestyle and values, and the contrast of everyday life in rural and urban settings, were encapsulated by their films.
Moreover, narrative techniques including breakthroughs in structural complexity, the mixing of reality and fiction, and the use of flashbacks within flashbacks, were aptly introduced to Taiwan's filmmaking industry.
World cinema lost a true visionary when Yang passed away on June 29, 2007. However, the sparse seven-feature collection he produced over three decades is an undeniable oeuvre of stunning beauty, power, and originality:
1983 ― "That Day, on the Beach (海灘的一天)" is Yang's debut feature on the reunion of two female friends after divergent paths led to a 13-year separation.
1985 ― "Taipei Story (青梅竹馬)" uses the slow dissolution of a romantic relationship to parallel the past and future development of Taipei City.
1986 ― "The Terrorizers (恐怖份子)" is a complex, chilling crime story set amid cold-blooded ambition, a mysterious gunshot, and three sets of characters.
1991 ― "A Brighter Summer Day (牯嶺街少年殺人事件)" bemoans the lack of warmth in people's hearts as mounting oppression in Taiwanese society results in murderous consequences.
1994 ― "A Confucian Confusion (獨立時代)" is a biting black comedy portraying Yang's vision of a city in moral crisis despite its opulent appearance.
1996 ― "Mahjong (麻將)" - a tale of hoodlums and gambling debts, in which Yang defies gangster movie conventions with his unique plot twists.
2000 ― "Yi Yi (一一)," his seminal film, opens with a wedding and ends on a funeral as Yang uses the narratives of a three-generational family to illustrate Taipei in the 21st century.
Although Yang was named Best Director in 2000 by Cannes, only one of his feature films was commercially released in the United States during his lifetime … (read more)