Back in 1996 I sort of randomly caught Yang's Mahjong at the Seattle International Film Festival and fell in love with it. Did not realize at the time how tough it would be to catch other Yang movies — I wish I remembered more about A Confucian Confusion, which I saw once (with Mike D'Angelo!) when visiting NYC.

I've heard that both of those titles are getting releases this year, which would be great. I rewatched Mahjong in a mediocre YouTube upload earlier this year.

Need to rewatch Yi Yi, and I still haven't seen (ironically) A Brighter Summer Day, the other Yang it's not hard to find.

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May 9Liked by Scott Tobias

"Another Ota scene: At the restaurant where he’s finally negotiating the deal with N.J., he borrows a pack of cards to demonstrate a magic trick he learned as a child, when he wanted to be a magician. Ota tells him that the trick isn’t magic at all; he simply knows where all the cards are in the deck. That leads him to express his pessimistic instincts on the deal: “I have no magic to save your company. I’m just like you. I have no tricks. We can work together, but I think your partner wants a magician.”"

Seconding the love for Ota, this is maybe the scene in the film that sticks with me the most these days. It feels like it supports the notion of low-key mastery mentioned elsewhere in the essay, a kind of humble suggestion that everything he's doing here is not the result of magic but of someone working their craft very diligently and intentionally.

I haven't seen Confucian Confusion or Mahjong yet, but every other Yang film is absolutely outstanding as well—of what I seen, I don't think he has a "minor" work in the bunch (albeit some feel a little less all-human-life-encompassing than this one!).

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May 9Liked by Scott Tobias

Easily one of my favorite movies of all time. Watching this movie after decades of watching movies felt like I had stumbled onto something entirely new. Just magical.

I would also highly recommend Taipei Story and the way that film deals with a couple that's stuck between two drastically different generations. It works especially well for anyone who feels stuck between Gen X and Millenial sensibilities.

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May 11Liked by Scott Tobias

Historical correction - Yi-Yi was somewhere in the nineties (definitely in the top 100) of the 2012 Sight & Sound critics poll. I'm guessing the ranking you had was the aggregate of the critics and directors poll - I don't think, but don't know, it didn't make the top 100 in the directors poll.

I rewatches it earlier this year for the first time in nearly 10 years. Remembering there was tragedy at the end and the scene of Yang Yang jumping in the pool, I actually couldn't remember as I was rewatching it, if he drowned or not.

I think all of my favorite scenes have already been mentioned (the educational film about storms, nearly every scene with Ota...)

I will say, since there's the discussion of availability of his films, I am aware of Taipei Story is on the Criterion Channel and Terrorizers is on Mubi.

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May 12·edited May 12Liked by Scott Tobias

Loved this discussion! For Thanksgiving 2020, my husband and I were by ourselves because of the pandemic so we spent the day watching A Brighter Summer Day and Yi Yi and called it Yangsgiving. The themes of Yi Yi were particularly appropriate for a day that we'd usually spend with friends and family.

(Side note: We went to Taiwan for vacation earlier this year and made a quick detour to walk by the apartment building from Yi Yi. The building exterior and highway still look very much like the film!)

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