Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Farewell to Edward Yang

The Taiwanese director Edward Yang sadly passed away on Sunday, of cancer, at the age of 59. Yang had directed only seven films, most of which were not well known in the West, with the exception of his brilliant period youth movie A Brighter Summer's Day (the title comes from 'Love me Tender') and his last film Yi-Yi, for which he won the Best Director award at Cannes seven years ago.

I managed to see four of his films around the time Yi-Yi got released and the screening of A Brighter Summer's Day was one of my most bizarre cinema experiences ever. A packed house settled down to watch the three-hour film for the first of two weekend screenings on a Saturday afternoon in the IFC; we were a little confused to see the film start abruptly with a street fight, and the film continued with little or no reference points offered to distinguish one character from another. After about twenty minutes, when the opening credits rolled, it dawned on us: the reels had been mounted in the wrong order. The film stopped for five minutes and everybody was informed that they could get a refund or a ticket to the following day's screening. We all filed out of the cinema, though I was one of the last to be able to get out, when suddenly the film started rolling again. Knowing that films need to be run through the projector once they are loaded, I settled back into my seat to watch the rest of the film, as did a handful of other people. About an hour later, the subtitle track began to slip below the screen so I ran out to the box office to ask them to rectify it; the guy at the box office, who I knew well enough from regular visits, gave me a horrified look, and said, as if out of a disaster movie, 'Are there still people in there?'

Even jumbled up, the film was great, and though I would place Yang behind his compatriots Tsai Ming-Liang and Hou Hsiao-Hsien, it is a bad thing that he will be making no more films.