Edward Yang

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FakeBonanza
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Re: Edward Yang

#101 Post by FakeBonanza » Wed Jul 08, 2015 2:08 pm

Maybe its vain of me to attempt to revive a several-year-old discussion, but I've only just watched Yang's masterful Terrorizers and I can't help but respond to zedz's excellent commentary on the film.
zedz wrote:What's most impressive about The Terrorizer is its utter absence of coincidence. The cause and effect for every action is impeccably accounted for, so when Character A finally runs into Character F at Location C, there's the satisfying understanding of all the tiny details that have brought this to pass, not just the dull, ho-hum click of X happening because the author says it needs to.
There’s also a sense of inevitability to the events. For instance,
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the writer has already slept with her ex-lover by the time she receives the call. The call only serves to accelerate their break-up by eliminating the empathy she felt for her husband.
Thus, all of these intertwining characters and events serve functions that aren’t so ludicrously fatalistic.
zedz wrote:Yang's overarching method is revealed in miniature in several sequences… everything is spatially and logically related. Some event might at first appear coincidental - the writer turning up on the photographer's doorstep, say - but figuring out how she got there sheds light on the whole world of the film.
The most outright Godardian (almost Langian, even) moment in the film is the montage of images during the opening police siege (which you spoke about in some detail). In extreme long-shots, Yang offers a lifeless body, and shorting after cuts to a disembodied arm shooting a gun from the cover of a doorway. Are we seeing the shot only after the man has been killed? But no… Yang doesn’t have the anarchic intentions of Godard, and in the very same scene, Yang repeats these shots, placing them within their proper context and creating a whole, clear scene. It’s the kind of meticulous precision Yang displays here, and throughout, that has me not at all surprised by his previous career as a computer engineer.

But this scene is more than Yang flexing his muscle. In fact, I would argue that this scene, in which a succession of seemingly disparate images come together to form a carefully composed whole, uses purely cinematic means to prepare the audience for Yang’s narrative of carefully interwoven threads.

Another striking example: Early in the film, Yang offers distinct shots of the photographer’s dark room and the scientist’s red-tinted bathroom. These scenes are left distinct in the opening, never quite making contact. That is, until a scene in which the photographer is shown transforming a studio apartment into one (relatively) big darkroom. The final shot of the now red-tinted space cuts immediately to the scientist in his bathroom, which is, in effect his “dark room”—Yang frequently finds the husband alone in the bathroom, the only space in the couple’s apartment that is distinctly his (in the context of the film, of course). This pathetic realization really underscores all that he’s foregone in order to appease his wife. He’s given her an apartment with her own office space (which, ironically, we later discover she considered a cage), leaving the husband with no defined space of his own.

There are many other stylistic masterstrokes, the best of which I think you’ve already covered. I think you’re right that Antonioni isn’t exactly a lingering presence over the film so much, although Yang does seem to offer some rather direct nods: the twice-used cut to an extremely long-shot of a UFO-like structure, and an electric fan’s prominent place in the mis-en-scene of a crucial scene are right out of L’eclisse (actually, the invasive presence of telephones is used to great effect in L’eclisse as well).

Terrorizers is actually the first Yang film I’ve seen (and it pains me to know that Yi Yi is the only other I have immediate access to), so I can’t speak much of his style in general, but I was consistently in awe of just how precise this film is. Not only does Yang frequently offer long-and medium-shots so perfectly framed that they rival those of Hou and Antonioni, but he has an uncanny ability to cut from these more distant shots to close up at the exact moment of maximum potency. An example that immediately comes to mind is the “break-up” scene in which the wife leaves the table to attend to a kettle. Yang dwells on a long-shot of him alone at the table, her alone in the kitchen and framed by the entryway. The shot itself is so exquisite that the sudden cut to the wife alone in the kitchen has a jarring effect that seems to underscore her own experience (and bring us to sympathize with her just in time for the big direct-address monologue that you mentioned).
zedz wrote:The White Chick's mother comes home and puts on her old Platters LP. 'Smoke Gets in Your Eyes' starts to play and plays through to its end over a gorgeous nocturnal associative montage… of images and music in which Wong would later specialise.
For me this immediately brought to mind Hou’s employment of the very same song in the first sequence of Three Times, which was surely a conscious tribute to Yang’s film. And of course, this gives further credence to you Yang-Wong connection, since at least a couple of critics have made a connection between the opening scene of Hou’s film and the mood evoked in Wong’s ’60s-set work. It’s also interesting that Hou as well chooses to play ‘Smoke Gets in Your Eye’ in its entirety, though rather that set it to a marvelously constructed montage, Hou provides a single awe-inspiring shot.

Regarding the ending:

Despite the focus placed on the central prank call, I’d argue that it is another telephone call that provides the film’s most crucial turn:
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The call during which the writer is notified by a nameless, faceless, and voiceless character, that her would-be autobiographical novel has been awarded a prize for best novel. It is the additional attention brought to the novel that sets the climactic events into motion. Not only does it finally bring the photographer and the scientist together, but Yang strongly implies that it is the alternate history presented in the novel that leads to the scientist losing his all-but-assured promotion (in his last meeting with the boss, the boss places much emphasis on the (now) ex-wife’s book, which has depicted the scientist as adulterous). It is this conversation (along with the photographer’s intervention) that leads the scientist the finally read the novel and confront the wife. However, as damaging as his rejection by the ex-wife is, it seems to be the loss of the promotion that is the ultimate tipping point.

Then there is the revenge fantasy—but is it really the scientist’s own fantasy, or an imaginary fulfillment of his fictional representation? The fantasy is, to some extent, him reenacting the outcome of his wife’s novel. Even the suicide—his ultimate end—does not belong to him alone, since his wife had also predicted that outcome in her novel.

I am confident that, with the film’s last shot, Yang signals that the wife is pregnant, though the very intentional juxtaposition of his gruesome death with her morning sickness is of course intentional. With her ex-husband’s final self-destructive act, she is given the last remaining piece of her ideal life.

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Re: Edward Yang

#102 Post by zedz » Wed Jul 08, 2015 4:44 pm

(group hug)

We'll win the world over to the wonders of this film one person at a time!

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Re: Edward Yang

#103 Post by roujin » Wed Jul 08, 2015 4:55 pm


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Re: Edward Yang

#104 Post by George Kaplan » Mon Jul 27, 2015 5:04 pm

Unfortunately, the schedule has been revised and Kurosawa's THE IDIOT is being shown in its place. ](*,)

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Re: Edward Yang

#105 Post by Michael Kerpan » Mon Jul 27, 2015 5:12 pm

If only it was a restored Idiot -- with all the cut bits back in the film. ;-)

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Re: Edward Yang

#106 Post by hangman » Sat Aug 22, 2015 3:52 am

I got around to re-watching this movie, I had to make some corrections on subtitles so I wanted to see the final product as quality check.

I noticed one thing when I watched this movie again, I had only watched it once prior, what struck me was the editing style of the film. To quote zedz's description of the introduction:
The film begins with a great blocky montage of disparate elements that gradually cohere into a story (empty streets with the sound of sirens, a body on the road, the photographer grabbing his camera, a hand holding a gun poking out a window and firing a shot).
Initially I thought the same thing but as I had a second viewing of the movie I noticed that the introduction may not seem as disconnected or unassociated with each other. What I mean is there seems to be a play of images that Yang would further refine in Yi Yi. Recall how things play out...

The introduction starts with the girlfriend of the photographer about to go to sleep which she does... cue to the next scene we see a man on the streets lying down... cue to the next scene we see the writer slowly arising for her slumber (completing the cycle) and having a conversation with her husband wherein he quips that line about writing a novel shouldn't be so life consuming... cue to the next scene with what we now identify as a dead body etc thanks to the gunshots and the person carrying him off.

I could go on but other more obvious examples would be the same scene zedz described with the window washer:
The cause and effect for every action is impeccably accounted for, so when Character A finally runs into Character F at Location C, there's the satisfying understanding of all the tiny details that have brought this to pass, not just the dull, ho-hum click of X happening because the author says it needs to. Yang's overarching method is revealed in miniature in several sequences, as when the writer wife goes to visit an old friend at his new offices on a sunny day, but her entry into the building is blocked by an unexplained, very localised sunshower. In the following scene, upstairs, she opens a window in her friend's new office and we can see, reflected in the tilted glass, a window washer in his cradle, thus accounting for the previous shower.
What is just as interesting is the image itself we see of the windows of the building as the next scene cuts into the writing sheets of the novelist wife which basically follows the same pattern of blocks as the building.
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Well I guess if you're not too familiar with chinese/japanese/korean writing paper if ever that doesn't come across too clearly:
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Blocks much like a building windows, repeating squares.

I noticed the film is rife with this interrelatedness that he plays along with both images and sound that it he actually manages to interweave one scene from the next to basically build upon what would be a seemingly unrelated scene.

Take for instance the scene prior to the news about the chief director dying from a stroke. The scene prior was the novelist wife writing her novel and the scene ends with her writing about how the husband and wife are about to face the biggest challenge of their marriage... cue to the next scene with the news about the chief's death and his affair.

Like zedz said there is always a cause and effect with the film and the way the scenes begin and end follow that cause and effect one way or another either through dialogue or images, another example of the images is when the photographer is setting up the image of White Chick on his wall in the dark room which is red and the next scene that follows it the doctor in his bathroom.
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I was always honestly wondering why the bathroom had that odd red glow about it, guess it was really an aesthetic choice.

That what may seem like an unassociated montage or separate stories actually create one cohesive whole as one scene speaks to another or completes the action providing some continuity or even providing the apt commentary to make sense of images (just recall the prank call of White chick and the montage of the photographer's girlfriend going on in the background).

Normally, in movies with multiple narratives there is always the risk of one story upstaging the others but in this film I never came across that issue. Not because the narratives weren't interesting but they just come together as a whole piece and I think the way he plays with his editing is in large part the to the credit of avoiding this pitfall. The scenes so to speak play off or reinforce one another through out, in obvious or subtle ways, as Yang finds a way to associate them together creating a continuity. Of course, it begins to culminate as the lives slowly but surely build up to the meetings and intertwining that they suddenly inhabit the same time and space.

I was blown away by this realization as it became more clear that he had actually been building upon the interrelatedness of the characters from the very first scene. Playfully much like a word play except with images, and of course words later on.

This reminded me of my favorite scene in Yi Yi wherein the dad was reminiscing with his ex-girlfriend their first date and crush. Which we see unfold before us with his own children living out their lives. Different scenes but they share the same context.

Same thing happens with Terrorizers but unlike Yi Yi it does so in more subtle ways all through out the film.

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Re: Edward Yang

#107 Post by zedz » Sun Aug 23, 2015 10:28 pm

Great observations! It really demonstrates just how carefully edited Yang's films were.


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Re: Edward Yang

#109 Post by Trees » Fri Dec 25, 2015 7:38 pm

I guess a Criterion BD release is coming out for A Brighter Summer Day in March? If so.... YES!!! \:D/

zedz your writing here is wonderful. I'm inspired to rewatch Yi Yi again soon, which is already in my Top 10 Asian films. While Yi Yi's drama and insight are strong, it's the humor that is the icing on the cake for me.

Also going to check out Terrorizers soon.

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Re: Edward Yang

#110 Post by swo17 » Fri Dec 25, 2015 9:13 pm

Trees wrote:I guess a Criterion BD release is coming out for A Brighter Summer Day in March? If so.... YES!!! \:D/
Yes, it was officially announced last week.

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Re: Edward Yang

#111 Post by oh yeah » Sat Dec 26, 2015 2:55 am

I know it's basically a cinephile-cliche to say so, but Brighter Summer Day is probably my most-anticipated film of all time. Not that there aren't films out there potentially greater that will probably NEVER see the light of day on DVD/Blu, but as a huge fan of Yi Yi (and Terrorizers) I've been eyeing the film for years and heard so many great things about it. I love, also, that it seems to have a novelistic bent to go along with its long running time -- I love sinking my teeth into a really well-realized, riveting filmic world. I even think I read someone compare ABSD to The Wire's Season 4, thematically at least, and that furthers my idea of Yang films like Yi Yi and possibly this film having a kind of immersive, subplot-heavy, serialized form that predates the great HBO prestige TV dramas of the 2000s.

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Re: Edward Yang

#112 Post by colinr0380 » Sat Dec 26, 2015 9:43 am

A Brighter Summer Day does have a number of allusions to War and Peace through it, perhaps as many references as to Elvis! Which makes sense in that it involves following a traumatic period both within an individual family and for the wider country itself (with both involving a seeming struggle of trying to define a sense of individual identity and where that fits in amongst the circle of the wider community); has a big and defining 'battle' scene in the middle of it; and focuses on the conflicting reactions of different generations of a family to the events that they have witnessed, especially from the militaristic 'trickle-down effect' moving from national relations to interpersonal ones.

My main hope for A Brighter Summer Day finally coming out is for all of the other films that zedz mentioned in his analysis to start getting released. Although if it has taken this long for Yang's most famous work to get restored and released, I'm not holding my breath for the others arriving quickly!

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Re:

#113 Post by Trees » Sat Feb 06, 2016 5:32 pm

zedz wrote: THE TERRORIZER

It's very hard to talk about the beauty of this film's construction without giving away a lot of the fun of viewing it, but one of the things I love most about it is how its meticulousness makes the big cinematic effects all the more rewarding. When the White Chick sneaks into a darkened room, and the light turns on to reveal her form silhouetted against a gigantic photomontage of her face, it's a visual wow, but it's also a narrative wow, because we realise how and why that montage got there and how devious the plotting has been to deliver this character to this place at this moment in order to grant us an aesthetic coup. And then Yang delivers a further coup when the windows are opened and the giant face gets to flutter in the breeze.
I saw a beautiful 720p copy of this film tonight, and it's a g*d-damn masterpiece. I am quickly drifting toward the conclusion that Yang is one of the all-time great directors. When I saw "Yi-Yi" years ago, I was really taken by surprise. Yes, I had read and heard that it was good. It was on some "Top 20" cine lists. But the reality of how masterful and how human a piece of filmmaking it was caught me off guard. When the film was over, I almost felt like I had just finished a great novel.

Now, after watching "The Terrorizers", I can see that this was no fluke.

My anticipation level now for "A Brighter Summer Day" is basically through the roof... stratospheric.

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Re: Edward Yang

#114 Post by feihong » Sat Feb 06, 2016 6:22 pm

The Terrorizers was pretty amazing, but I do think Yang is not maybe in as much control of his tone in that film as he is in later ones. In particular, Cora Miao's character is a bit strained, and that part of the plot she inhabits drags a bit in comparison to the rest of the film. I think it slightly unbalances the film as a whole. But the film is interesting enough that I don't mind. The later films, which much less melodrama, develop complexity in a lot more beguiling ways, I feel. I like The Terrorizers, but it definitely feels like the work of a younger man, with a bit less subtlety to him.

Mahjong really blew my mind, though. It has some similarly didactic elements, but they never overwhelm in contrast to the other elements of the film. I hope that film gets some kind of dignified home video release at some point.

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Re: Edward Yang

#115 Post by Trees » Sun Feb 07, 2016 6:35 am

Also, The Terrorizers features probably the best 4th-wall breaking I have seen in a film. For example, the wife's confessional that zedz wrote about. But really, all the 4th-wall stuff in this film is great. Ozu would be impressed.

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Re: Edward Yang

#116 Post by AK » Wed Mar 23, 2016 7:52 am

The Fanciful Norwegian wrote:
knives wrote:The Blu is OOP, but the DVD is still in print.
Well, I see a couple of places (Yesasia and Eslite) still selling the unrestored full-frame edition that doesn't have English subtitles—I suppose that could still be in print, but I suspect it's just old stock, and it's not much use for most people here. (Anyone who doesn't need English subtitles would be better off with the Japanese Blu.) There was a standalone Taiwanese DVD release of the restored version, but I can't find it in stock anywhere and I would think it would've gone OOP when they did the dual-format reissue.
(Continuing the conversation about the availability of The Terrorizers here.)

So the Taiwanese Blu-ray seems to be at least momentarily out of print. I'd really like to have this in HD, so if the Taiwanese disc remains OOP, is the Japanese Blu my only way to go? If so, are there any recommendations for decent English subtitles? I thought I might get the Japanese Blu-ray without English subtitles and remux them in myself. If I'm not in the mood to buy the DVD solely for the subtitles, are there any decents and suitable subs online?

EDIT: Many thanks for your help!
Last edited by AK on Thu Mar 24, 2016 3:38 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Edward Yang

#117 Post by The Fanciful Norwegian » Wed Mar 23, 2016 1:42 pm

These look like the official subs and would probably sync to the Japanese release (though it might need an offset if they stuck additional logos at the beginning). Only issues I see are some small spacing and capitalization errors that are probably down to OCR problems.

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Re: Edward Yang

#118 Post by Trees » Wed Mar 23, 2016 11:10 pm

Yes, I think those are the subs I used. They seemed good.

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Re: Edward Yang

#119 Post by Trees » Sat Mar 26, 2016 5:59 pm

Image

Can anyone here tell me anything about the relationship between Edward Yang and Hou Hsiao-Hsien? Were they good friends? Was one a mentor or inspiration to the other?

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Re: Edward Yang

#120 Post by knives » Sat Mar 26, 2016 6:04 pm

It gets talked about a little in of all places the Close-Up commentary, but in short as I understand it they were good friends until a collaboration they did exhausted them of each other and had a falling out.

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Re: Edward Yang

#121 Post by FakeBonanza » Sat Mar 26, 2016 7:20 pm

I think Tony Rayns gives some details about the origin of the Taiwan New Cinema movement in the piece on Criterion's Yi Yi release. There's also some great information in Michael Berry's book Speaking in Images: Interviews with Contemporary Chinese Filmmakers.

From what I can recall, Edward Yang returned to Taiwan from the States in the late seventies or early eighties, and his house became the de facto home base for the Taiwan New Cinema gang in its earliest days. Yang introduced others to the American and European art cinema that he had become acquainted with, and the would otherwise sit around, talk at length, and drink a lot (I believe Yang is quoted as saying, "the door was never locked, because there was nothing to steal").

Yang and Hou became better acquainted when Yang was in post-production for That Day, On the Beach and the same time Hou was editing The Boys from Fengkuei. The two spent some time together, and Yang even made the suggestion that Hou should include specific music in his film (from Vivaldi's Four Seasons, I believe). Yang gets a music credit on the film as a result.

The two went on to collaborate for a period. I think Yang was a producer on Summer at Grandpa's and has a cameo in the film as the children's father. Hou of course starred in Taipei Story which is probably the most prominent instance of collaboration between the two, and between any two members of the Taiwan New Cinema movement.

My understanding is that their relationship dissolved over what amounted to philosophical differences: the two had distinctly divergent perspectives on filmmaking, Taiwan, and the climate of Taiwan's film industry and culture in particular. Having returned from America, Yang had a very cynical view of the country's modernization, and grew to despise the Taiwanese film industry very quickly. Hou came from much different circumstances, and felt more accountable (Hou eventually took on an advisory role with the Taiwanese government's Golden Horse foundation). Conversely, Yang withdrew from the Taiwanese film industry and formed his own production company and film community. Yang's relationship with the native film culture was in such repair that he more-or-less refused to show Yi Yi in Taiwan, and to my knowledge it has still yet to ever screen there.


I just remembered that Tony Rayns touched on this in a Film Comment article, published upon Yang's death:
The New Wave gang had broken up by the late Eighties, for all the usual reasons (divergent interests and tastes, money squabbles, rivalries) plus some others specific to Taiwan: differing responses to the commercial failure of virtually all the New Wave movies and differing attitudes toward the government-owned Central Motion Picture Corporation, which had a near-monopoly in financing, distribution, and exhibition.
(this is from the Nov-Dec 2007 issue)


In an interview with Chinlin Hsieh, the director of Flowers of Taipei, she provides a rather skewed account of their break-up:

CH: They worked together at the beginning but it lasted for very few years. 3 years and then it was gone. Then some of them became visible internationally and jealousy came. Hsiao-Hsien kept winning prizes overseas and Edward Yang didn’t. This is just my guess, but it’s based on what I heard from the others; directors that were in the circle but on the edge. In the beginning they were all nobody; no one knew them. There was a camaraderie that pushed them to do something but soon they weren’t together anymore.

It’s an ego thing. Very natural when you have passionate, creative people. Like the French New Wave they fought and stopped talking to each other. But they’d come together accidentally in the first place.


This wouldn't seem to make all that much sense, given that The Terrorizers won a number of awards, both in Taiwan and abroad. Furthermore, Hsieh has an acknowledged relationship with Hou, and is not likely to have had one with Yang, so it's possible that she's been given a biased account of events.

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Re: Edward Yang

#122 Post by The Fanciful Norwegian » Sat Mar 26, 2016 11:31 pm

Hou not only starred in Taipei Story but also produced it through his own company and put up half of the budget himself. It was a notorious bomb at the Taiwanese box office (it closed after four days) and Hou supposedly lost his house as a result, which is probably not conducive to a good relationship. But Hou and Yang later co-founded a new production house alongside Chen Kuo-fu, the optimistically-named "Cooperative Film Company"; it only made one film (A City of Sadness) and I suspect Hou and Yang's "final" break is connected to the fate of the company. (Hou and Yang did re-establish contact around the time of Yi Yi, but they never again had a close relationship.) According to Jan Hung-tze, a producer for both Hou and Yang and later one of Taiwan's first e-commerce tycoons, Yang and Chen had projects they were eager to do—Yang A Brighter Summer Day, Chen a gangster movie that was never made—but the shoot for A City of Sadness dragged on much longer than planned and required all of the company's resources, which made Yang (and to a lesser extent Chen) very "anxious" and "impatient." (I should add that Yang comes off in a lot of the interviews I've read with friends and collaborators as a mercurial personality in general.) The company fell apart after A City of Sadness finally wrapped, and whatever the reasons for that collapse—Chen claims that even he isn't sure—I can't help but think that it was the straw that broke the camel's back.

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Re: Edward Yang

#123 Post by LittleFerret » Sun Mar 27, 2016 2:12 pm

Speaking of Flowers of Taipei, does anyone know of any way to watch it? I can't find any legal streaming for it, nor can I find an actual physical copy.

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Re: Edward Yang

#124 Post by criterion10 » Mon Mar 28, 2016 12:25 pm

Trees wrote:Is there any way to see Taipei Story?
To further this question, with the exception of Yang's three restored titles (A Brighter Summer Day, The Terrorizers, Yi Yi), are there any decent/watchable versions of his remaining five features on home video (or even back channels for that matter)?

I'd like to work my way through his filmography, but if everything is as unwatchable as that YouTube upload of Taipei Story, I might have to hold off for the time being.

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Re: Edward Yang

#125 Post by The Fanciful Norwegian » Mon Mar 28, 2016 12:45 pm

A Confucian Confusion and Mahjong both had Japanese DVDs, which weren't great by DVD standards but are at least better than an old VHS or laserdisc. They're out of print but rips are out there, with English subs for Mahjong. Last I checked there was no English sub file for A Confucian Confusion, but there are English-subtitled rips from the Hong Kong VCD if you can accept the quality hit. That Day on the Beach was only available on VHS (and a cut Cantonese-dubbed laserdisc) until an unrestored but watchable edition popped up a few years ago on a Chinese VOD site; English subtitles for this version are available here.

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