Taiwanese master Edward Yang
directed a segment of Guang yin de gu shi/ In Our Time (1982),
the work that was credited with launching the Taiwanese new wave,
He continued to dissect the lives of affluent city-dwellers on his
Michelangelo Antonioni-influenced full-length debut,
the three-hour Hai Tan de Yi Tian/ That Day on the Beach (1983),
the first film shot by Christopher Doyle,
a realistic tragedy of ordinary people that projects a
very pessimistic view of the human condition.
Superficially, this is a family saga in reverse, a
chronicle of a deteriorating marriage that is also the parable of a resurrected
But it is a film drenched in melancholy, infinite melancholy.
And the flashbacks, including flashbacks within flashbacks, dig so intensely
into the psychology of the characters that the film becomes a chain of
Nobody is happy, nobody wins: everybody can only lose.
It's like Orson Welles without the pomp.
Yang's master trick is to turn the protagonist (what we initially think is
the protagonist) into the listener: the film is about listening, not about
acting. The friend she goes to meet turns out to be the protagonist of the
story, the involuntary protagonist of a tragic story; and also the heroine.
We never know much about the listener, other than she is a late witness to
a tragedy that she totally missed. All those years she may have envied what
she left behind, only to find out that she left behind sorrow and more sorrow.
The friend who becomes the real protagonist, on the other hand, reversed her
role, from happy counterpart to the pianist's sorrow (as it initially
appears) to complex, tormented, worn-out counterpart to the pianist's relatively simple life.
A famous female pianist, Weiqing, nicknamed Ching-ching, has just arrived in town after 13 years of voluntary exile.
A woman hears the news on the radio and immediatelly picks up the phone.
The pianist is nervous. She is taken to the rehearsal space where a technician
is tuning the piano for her. Her German assistant Birgit is trying to organize
her day, but Ching-ching is disturbed after she is given a message from the hotel.
A flashback shows Ching-ching as a teenager watching rugby game: she's in love with
one of the kids, Jiasen. Jiasen is the brother of Ching-ching's best friend
Jiali. Jia-sen and Jiali are children of a stern Japanese doctor who runs his
own clinic and demands absolute obedience from his wife and children.
Jiasen has been sent to study medicine so that he can join his father's business.
The message that Ching-ching received was from Jiali, who wants to see her:
they haven't met in 13 years. Ching-ching tells Birgit to cancel her appointments
and runs to meet her old friend. Thus begins a lengthy conversation at a coffee
shop, reminiscing the past and filling the blanks about each other's lives.
A flashback shows that,
after graduating, Jiasen was told by his father to marry the daughter of a friend.
Jiasen was in love with Ching-ching but couldn't say no.
Back to the present, we learn that Ching-ching left the country after the breakup
and never wanted to come back. She knows nothing to what happened to her friends.
Another flashback shows how Jiali got married. She hangs out with her best friend
Hsin-hsin, who is the girlfriend of a rich spoiled kid, Ah-tsai, and thus
Jiali met Ah-tsai's childhood friend Dewei: Ah-tsai is a confident and arrogant
playboy, while Dewei is exactly the opposite, a shy and introverted kid.
Dewei kissed her before he was drafted in the army. But Jiali's father has
arranged a good marriage also for her. Her brother Jiasen regrets having
obeyed his father and encourages Jiali to disobey. Jiali flees the house at
night and reaches the poor apartment where Dewei lives with other kids.
They got married with a humble wedding.
Back to the present, Ching-ching invites Jiali to attend her performance with
Dewei, but Jiali confesses that something happened between them three years
earlier. Another flashback shows when she, now living in a nice apartment
with a maid, received a phone call from the police that Dewei had drowned.
She rushed to the beach and the cop told her that the body had not been
found. The camera shows documentary-style interviews with fishermen who
saw the man walk alone by the beach and then disappear. The cop found a
bottle of psychiatric pills with Dewei's name on it. Hence the conclusion
that Dewei drowned. Some men are searching the sea for his body.
A flashback within this flashback shows Dewei at work and then at the same
beach, happy with his wife Jiali. Their condition improved dramatically
because Ah-tsai married a rich woman and used the money to start a company
that did ver well. Ah-tsai hired Dewei as his right-arm man.
One day Jiali ran into Hsin-hsin, her old high-school friend, who had not
been as lucky: after countless boyfriends, she was still single, and one
boyfriend left her with a child.
At the same time Jiali's own wedding started unraveling because of Jiali's
crazy work schedule. A simple misunderstanding helped a sexy colleague,
the nasty Hsiao-hui, seduce Dewei.
One day Jiali also saw him flirting with a woman in
a telephone booth. Suspecting a love affair, Jiali went to look after Dewei
when he was out of town, and this greatly embarrassed Dewei in front of
his colleagues. Dewei got more and more impatient with Jiali's attitude,
while Jiali got more and more frustrated with Dewei's indifference for her.
Back to the beach flashback, the police try to get useful information from
her, but she can only say that Dewei had disappeared since a few days.
And back to the present in the coffee shop, Ching-ching is listening
carefully to Jiali's story.
A flashback continues Jiali's story. One day Ah-tsai sent Dewei abroad
on a business trip. Jiali visited her friend Hsin-hsin, the single mother,
now happily in love with a younger man. Hsin-hsin and her boyfriend took
Jiali to a bar and a young man, Ping-ping, started flirting with her.
Jiali, who had been a humble housewife, changed her hair to look more sexy
and accepted a date with Ping-ping, a writer and world traveler.
Jiali also visited her father, sick at the hospital.
A humbled man, the father now lamented that his clinic was struggling,
having to compete with big hospitals and not having the funds to buy
expensive medical equipment.
The nasty seducer Hsiao-hui showed up to talk to her. Jiali then learned of
Dewei's love affair with Hsiao-hui in the most grotesque manner: Dewei had sent a
letter to each of them but switched the envelopes, and Hsiao-hui came to
deliver the one addressed to Jiali. The lover also made a point of showing that
she understood Dewei better than the wife. And, cynical and pragmatic, the
lover admitted candidly that she had slept with several colleagues to advance her career.
Jiali even thought of killing herself. Eventually she collapsed and was hospitalized.
Hsin-hsin was her only remaining friend. Dewei returned and Jiali, still in the
hospital bed, tried to convince him to recapture the magic of their early
years, when they were poor. Jiali also received the surprise visit of her mom.
A flashback within the flashback shows the children Jiali and Jiasen listening
to classical music while mother is serving tea to father. But the flashback also
shows that this child Jiali saw her father touching his nurse and then the same
girl saw her mom paying the nurse to leave town. Another flashback shows
that her mom saw Jiali flees the house that night but didn't do anything to
stop her. The two women do not exchange this information: only we see these two
Dewei got even busier with his work, and looked under even more pressure.
The flashback now moves forward to the day of the drowning. Jiali tells the
cop that Dewei had disappeared for another trip. Ah-tsai shows up at the beach
with worse news. Dewei was not on a business trip for him. Dewei disappeared
with a lot of money. New flashback shows what Ah-tsai did when Jiali called
him to tell him about Dewei's presumed drowning: Ah-tsai went to talk to the
one who knew Dewei best, the evil seducer Hsiao-hui, now a successful manager,
and Hsiao-hui candidly told him that Dewei betrayed his company. Ah-tsai
just learned the hard way what a cynical scheming manipulator of men Hsiao-hui was.
More importantly for Jiali, Hsiao-hui revealed that she was with Dewei at
that beach one week earlier, and that Dewei threw away that bottle of
psychiatric pills. That's why Ah-tsai doesn't believe that Dewei drowned:
he believes that Dewei is abroad enjoying the money that he stole from
the firm. Ah-tsai leaves Jiali alone at the beach, staring at the crew
that is still looking for Dewei's body.
Another flashback within this flashback shows her father's funeral, at which
her brother tells her that the clinic is failing.
Back to the beach, the crew has found something and the cop frantically calls
Jiali, but she got up and started walking away, pretending not to see or hear,
obviously not interested in finding out whether Dewei drowned or not:
it doesn't make a difference for her.
Back to the present in the coffee shop, Jiali receives a phone call for an
urgent meeting. She has become a busineswoman herself. A final flashback
shows that her brother Jiasen, the man Ching-ching loved, died of cancer.
Ching-ching doesn't ask Jiali whether Dewei drowned or not, and we'll never
Qing Mei Zhu Ma/ Taipei Story (1985) is a realist melodrama that
mixes film noir, nouvelle vague and Antonioni's gloomy existentialism.
A young man, Lon, and a young woman, Chin, visit an
empty apartment that they would like to rent.
The young man is dressed casually, the
woman is dressed in men's clothes and acts like a manager.
She is certain of a promotion and therefore of being able to afford this new
Chin works in a modern high-rise building. She is the assistant to a powerful
woman. Her coworker and friend Ko, an architect who designed many of the
buildings out there, is a depressed man, ready to divorce his wife, and clearly
in love with Chin.
Lon has just returned from a trip to the USA. He is in love with US culture and
particularly baseball. Chin's father loves Lon, and admits to him his
Chin's sister Ling has problems too: she's a restless teenager and
begs for money. A change in management in Chin's company has the side effect
that they don't need her anymore. She quits, but de facto she has been fired.
She tells Lon, who takes the news with some indifference.
He is much more interested in watching tapes of baseball games.
They've been together for years, since high school, but are not married yet.
She is disappointed that he came back from America a different man.
Lon, who runs a small cloth shop, plans to emigrate to the USA where he wants to start a business with his big brother, who once killed a black guy.
Lon meets an old friend whose life has been going downhill since he left
the army and now makes a living as a cab driver.
We learn that Lon stopped in Japan to visit a former girlfriend, Gwen.
Humiliated by another business man while at the bar with Chin,
Lon beats him up.
Ko keeps calling Chin.
Chin's father lost his money gambling and the creditor is a friend of Lon
and calls Lon. Lon can't help it and rescues the old man from trouble.
But, when he tells Chin, she yells at him: they need the money.
Lon secretely visits Gwen, who is back in town.
Chin's sister is infatuated with Japanese commercials that she finds in tapes
about baseball games.
Chin finds out that Lon is still seeing Gwen and slaps him in the face.
Lon does not respond and simply leaves. Depressed,
Lon goes to play cards with friends and loses everything.
One day Chin sees his car parked across the karaoke bar and calls him
pretending she needs a ride.
He is taking care of the three childrena of his cabbie friend, whose wife has
abandoned him. When Lon arrives at the bar, he tells Chin that he doesn't own
his old car anymore. She asks him to get married.
He is disillusioned with their love story.
She is even willing to emigrate to the USA,
but he admits that it has never been a real option: he doesn't have the capital
to start a business in the USA.
Lon takes a cab home. The taxi driver notices that a
motorcycle has been following them.
Lon gets out of the taxi and beats the motorcylist; but the biker
(a teenager who is in love with Chin, a boy whom Lon had humiliated)
gets up, runs after him and stabs him fatally.
Lon is left alone in a remote location in the middle of the night.
He has to walk bleeding towards the highway, but there is very little traffic.
He sits down and bleeds to death, his last thoughts being for baseball.
Meanwhile, Chin gets a call from her former boss. She offers Chin a new job
which, ironically, has to do with the USA.
Chin accepts, although she doesn't look excited, while the police are picking
up Lon's dead body from the highway.
When she stares expressionless in a mirror, we are left with the impression
that Chin would have preferred Lon's love than the job.
Kong bu fen zi/ The Terrorizers (1986) is for about an hour a
neurotic sequence of brief dissonant shots. It
is at least four stories in one: there's the story of a detached photographer,
a story in the style of Michelangelo Antonioni's Blowup,
there's the story of an alienated woman,
there's the story of a dysfunctional kid,
and there's the story (theoretically the main story) of an ambitious man
who married the most popular girl and hopes to be promoted to manager but
instead utterly fails in everything.
The only problem is that several episodes in the plot are a bit implausible
(for example, how the photographer connects the dots of the dysfunctional
kid and the alienated woman, or how can the cop know so much about the
women when he dreams of them).
A young photographer is in bed with his girlfriend who cannot sleep and it's
almost dawn. There's a dead man in the street. We hear shots.
Another woman, Yufen, wakes up, this time in a nice apartment. She is a writer
who cannot finish her novel. Her husband Lizhong dresses up and leaves for work.
Back to the shootout, there are cops looking for the thugs and the photographer
is now in the street taking photos. The police chief Gu sends him away but
he sees a thug and a girl jumping from a window and takes more pictures.
The cops arrest the thug while the girl limps away. The girl faints in
the street and is taken to the hospital. The cops raid the apartment.
Lizhong arrives at the hospital and is informed by mournful colleagues
that their boss has died of a stroke. They also gossip of an extramarital
affair. Lizhong talks to the director of the hospital and advances his own
candidacy to replace the dead manager. He does not hesitate to accuse his
rival Jing of corruption.
Meanwhile, the limping girl is taken home by her mother.
Her mother, who was abandoned by the girl's father, is very
angry and decides to lock her up in their apartment: obviously the kid
has been in trouble before.
Struggling writer Yufen meets an old boyfriend, Shen, who got divorced,
and Shen offers her a stable job in his firm.
The photographer's girlfriend erupts in fury and destroys his studio.
He walks out and moves into the apartment raided by the police, which
he turns into his dark room by blackening all the windows.
His girlfriend takes pills to kill herself. Then we hear the limping girl
leave a message to someone saying that she wants to kill herself, but
she's not serious: it's a cruel joke.
Yufen the writer destroys her notes and sleeps with her old boyfriend Shen.
Yufen tells Shen that her novel is about her marriage.
Back at home she cries and hugs her husband.
The limping girl, still locked in the apartment by her mom, makes a random
call and it happens to be the doctor's house. Yufen picks up and the
limping girl speaks as if she were the husband's lover and sends Yufen
to the address where she used to live, the apartment where the photographer
now lives. Yufen rings the bell but, when she sees the photographer, she
runs away without saying anything.
Then she disappears for a few days. The doctor asks chief Gu for help: they
are old friends and Gu remembers that everybody was surprised when Yufen
decided to marry Lizhong. When she reappears, she simply tells Lizhong
that she went to a quiet place to finish the novel. But she also tells
him that she's moving out, that she has decided to quit writing and that
she has accepted Shen's job. She mentions the trauma of losing her baby
as one of the things that caused her neurosis.
The limping girl takes advantage that her mom fell asleep to walk out
of the apartment. She goes dancing and picks up a man. While he is in
the bathroom, she steals his wallet, but he catches her: she pulls out
a knife and stabs him before running away. She sleeps in a bus and then
walks back to her old apartment. She still has the key: when she opens
the door, the first thing she sees is a giant photograph of herself,
because the photographer has been obsessed with her face ever since
taking that picture. She faints. When she wakes up the photographer
tells her how he ended up with her picture (and that he was the one
who called the ambulance for her). They make love. When he falls asleep,
she sneaks out with his cameras and tries to sell them. But then she
has second thoughts and returns them.
The photographer, broke, moves back to his rich father's villa and gets
back with his girlfriend, who obviously did not die.
Meanwhile, Lizhong is still counting on a promotion to manager, but the
hospital's director is worried about rumors that his wife dumped him:
Lizhong denies it. Yufen, who now works in Shen's office, is notified
that her novel has won the top literary prize. She is interviewed on
television and the story is published in newspapers: her novel is about
a woman who receives a phone call, realizes that her husband cheated on
her, leaves him, and then the husband kills her and kills himself.
The photographer reads it, recognizes her face, and connects the dots:
she (Yufen) thought that her husband was cheating on her after receiving
the limping girl's random call. The photographer calls Lizhong and
explains to him the whole story. The doctor wants his wife back but she
doesn't want him even after hearing the explanation: obviously she left
him not only because of the suspicion that he cheated on her. Meanwhile,
the limping girl and a boy have come up with a new scam: she draws
man in a room and then the boy shows up prentending to be her brother
and claiming she's underage and blackmails the man. The doctor is further
depressed by the news that the hospital's director has picked his rival
as manager. Lizhong goes crazy: he visits his old friend the cop Gu and
announces that he did get the promotion. Gu falls asleep, Lizhong takes
his gun, Lizhong finds and kills the director, Lizhong breaks into Shen's
apartment and kills Shen but cannot kill Yufen, and finally Lizhong
meets the limping girl who drags him into a room with her boyfriend waiting
outside for the usual ploy, but he is so nervous that she pulls out her
knife and just then the cop arrives but it's too late to stop Lizhong from shooting her...
A loud shot wakes up Gu: this was all a dream. The only shot was the
one that woke him up: Lizhong has killed himself. At the same time
Yufen wakes up and throws up, as if she had a nightmare: maybe it was her dream, not the cop's dream.
Guling Jie Shaonian Sha Ren Shijian/ The Murder Incident of the Boy on Guling Street/ A Brighter Summer Day (1991) tells two stories in one:
one of struggling adults who immigrated from the mainland and have to rebuild
their lives; and one of their dysfunctional kids, who, fascinated by
foreign models, organize in violent gangs.
The saga moves at a very slow pace, with little passion and little action.
Likewise, the visual style is also a little flat.
many families living in Taiwan actually came from mainland China after the
nationalists lost the civil war against the communists.
High-school students organize little gangs instead of studying.
One is shown stealing a flashlight from a film studio, where he was spying the
actors. Sir is the son of one of those parents who came from China.
His father has been trying to get him transferred from night school to day
school. Old friend Wango offers to help.
Sir's parents argue on the bus at night while a military convoy drives in the
At the film studio the director and the actress are arguing and he decides
to fire her and look for a younger actress.
Sir meets the cute Ming in the school's infirmary and falls in love with her.
By sheer chance the director sees her and invites to a screen test.
She tells Sir that has a boyfriend.
It turns out that Ming's boyfriend is the boss of the rival gang,
and Sir almost gets beaten up by its members for
going out with one of "their" girls.
Ming's boyfriend Honey is in hiding because he is wanted for the murder of
another boy, murdered precisely because the boy was hitting on Ming.
Sir's family lives in a Japanese tenement where someone is playing Japanese
songs all the time, a fact that feels ironic given that China fought a war
with Japan for eight years.
The big attractions for these kids are the musical concerts organized by
well-dressed Threads. The best singer is Cat, who is still a child.
Cat asks Sir's older sister to translate lyrics of English songs for him.
Sir avoids Ming but she chases him in the street.
She has a screen test the following day and wants him to attend.
Nonetheless she tells Sir that she misses Honey.
At home Sir's mom tells the children how she was an aspiring
teacher and their future father a humble peasant, and how they first met at a dance.
One of the sons has
pawned their mother's watch and the older sister gives him money to buy it back.
Ming's mom is taken to the hospital with asthma .
Ming does well at the test but Sir is not there: he is being punished at school
for copying. His father begs in vain for forgiveness.
He loses his temper and makes it worse
Ming and her mom, once she is dismissed from the hospital, go and stay with
relatives in a crowded place. Threads
decides to partner with Shandong's gang, the gang that Sir belongs to,
drawing Sly into it.
Sly takes his revenge on Tiger, a basketball fan who hates him.
Shandong's gang 217 searches the high school for Tiger after learning that he went out again with Ming, and Sir has to jump out of the window.
The gang then turns on Sir, who is also involved with Ming, but
new kid Ma, who in the past killed someone, comes to his rescue.
Later Ma shows them a sword left behind in his house by the Japanese general
who used to live there.
Sir goes out again with Ming. Honey's kids arrive again to disrupt their date
but this time there is also Honey in person, wearing a sailor's uniform.
Honey sends Sir free. The other gang has offered peace talks.
He knows that Threads has reached an agreement with Shandong's gang and he
feels betrayed by Threads.
Honey tells Sir that he knows that Ming likes him (Sir). He seems ready to
surrender her to him.
Finally the night of the concert arrives. The band is playing English-language
Honey shows up alone and asks to talk with Shandong, but he's too arrogant and
Shandong thows him under a car, killing him.
In the second half of the film Honey's gang takes its revenge and kills Shandong during a rainy night.
During the same night, Sir's father is arrested by the police, suspected of
being a member of the communist party.
After Honey's death,
Ming falls sick and disappears for a few days.
When she returns to school, Sir pledges to be a good friend to her.
They soon become lovers, but Sir is repulsed when
Ming confesses multiple relationships, including one with his mother's doctor,
Sir is becoming increasingly closer to Ma at the same time that he is
becoming a rebel. His father, released by the police, begs the school's
principal to forgive Sir, but Sir instead reacts viciously to his father's
humiliation and gets expelled. Sir, eager to console his father,
begins studying to get admitted to another school, even if this means
less time for Ming.
Ming's mother, now jobless, is hire by Ma's parents. Mother and daughter move
in with Ma's family. Ming and Ma become close friends.
Sir suspects that Ming cheats on him with Ma, and confronts Ma.
One evening the jealous Sir decides to attack Ma with a knife stolen from Cat,
but instead meets Ming. They get into a heated argument and he stabs her to death.
Du Li Shi Dai/ The Age of Independence/ A Confucian Confusion (1995) is about the collision between ancient Chinese beliefs and the greedy ethos of Taiwan's economic boom.
After a verbose and chaotic beginning, the film turns into a labirynthine saga
in the vein of soap operas: everybody is scheming, evil, hypocritical,
and unhappy, except the writer, Qiqi and Akeem. One is crazy, one is naive and
the third one is an idiot.
The plot (and the acting) consistently straddles the border between tragedy
and comedy. Some scenes are inspired by screwball comedy (mostly,
the ones about the play, but also when the writer hits the taxi),
some are philosophical and existential in nature,
and some are family melodrama.
A wild playwright, Birdy, is rehearsing his new avantgarde play, skating
around the actors while he lectures them. Birdy then visits the office of
a public-relationship firm in
a high-rise building. He is a celebrity and a friend
of the firm's managers, Molly and her sister. Molly's sister is married to
a writer and the press claims that Birdy's new play is plagiarizing a
novel by that writer. Birdy, whose only excuse is that in the old days nobody
cared about copyrights, is now scared that this writer will sue him.
Molly's sister promises that this won't happen and charges Molly with
talking to the writer, but the writer doesn't talk to Molly anymore after
Molly criticized his new book, "A Confucian Confusion", as too serious.
The writer used to be famous for best-selling love stories.
So Molly has charged her secretary Qiqi with obtaining from the writer a
signed declaration releasing the rights on the work plagiarized by Birdy.
Qiqi has been busy and told newly-hired Feng to do it but now Molly tells
Qiqi how urgent and important it is. Molly also confirms Qiqi's suspicion
that the writer is no longer living with his wife, Molly's sister, but
asks Qiqi to keep it confidential.
Qiqi has been busy because the firm is laying off workers, while Feng
had nothing to do.
Molly's sister tells Molly that people are gossiping about her and Birdy,
but Molly replies that they are just old friends from school.
Molly is engaged to the firm's owner, the wealthy Akeem, who is traveling
abroad, and Molly's sister is worried that Akeem will hear the gossips.
Everybody loves Molly’s humble assistant Qiqi, who is engaged to another classmate of Molly's, the honest hard-working civil servant Ming, whose father
was disgraced by an embezzlement scandal.
The writer has refused to sign the copyright release when Feng went ask him,
so now Qiqi decides to do it herself.
Before she can, her aunt shows up at the office and tells her to organize
a dinner with Ming's father: she want to discuss a new job opportunity for
Molly and Qiqi are good friends, and Qiqi doesn't mention the new job offer
during a lunch together.
One of the top managers in the firm is the womanizer Larry, a close friend
of Akeem. Molly tells Qiqi that Feng was hired because Larry wanted it,
and Larry is now trying to seduce Qiqi.
Larry schemes behind everybody's back. He tells Molly that her tenure at
the firm is a failure, and she replies that Akeem should invest more money.
Larry is trying to seduce her too.
Just then Akeem calls that he has returned home and tells Larry not to tell
Molly, who is sitting in front of him, and of course Molly overhears.
Molly, disgusted by the meeting with Larry, decides to fire his protegee Feng.
Qiqi advises Feng to audition for Birdy's play.
Meanwhile, Ming asks his colleague Liren the favor to hide the debts of a man
who is almost bankrupt.
Akeem heard rumors that Molly is having an affair and claims that he doesn't
care because their engagement is purely formal and leaves both some freedom.
Larry tells Akeem that his wife is away on a shopping trip.
Nonetheless, the married Larry flirts with every woman in the firm.
Molly decides to accept a date with him and takes him for a drive in
her coupe; but her goal is to tell Larry that she fired Feng and
Liren, who is another womanizer, but single, meets Feng after walking Ming
to his dinner appointment with Qiqi. Qiqi is honestly trying to help Feng
get over the firing. Ming is hostile to both his father (whose wife
divorced him twenty years earlier) and his aunt, but he does think that
the new job opportunity is great for Qiqi. Qiqi, however, cannot betray
her friend Molly now that the company is a mess. Ming and Qiqi have a big
argument in a taxi. He also hates the two sisters, who are hypocritical,
and their firm, that sells stupid soap-operas to the masses.
There's bad blood between Ming and Molly because one day Qiqi was upset
with Ming and she stayed at Molly's place, and then Ming threatened to
hit Molly. Qiqi lives with humble parents who are proud of the TV commercial
she shot at the firm. Ming lives with his humble mother and a crazy uncle
who plays with model airplanes and dates young girls.
Larry picks up a drunk Akeem from a party. Contrary to what he claimed,
Akeem is suffering because he thinks Molly is cheating on him. Larry
tells Akeem that it was a mistake to give her money to run the firm
and talks Akeem into punishing Molly at the company. And promises to find
out who is trying to date Molly (which would be him himself).
Molly tells Qiqi
that her sister was once engaged to Akeem but then she fell in love with
the writer, and their rich father settled on Molly as a replacement to
Lirem invites Ming to join him at the dance club where he is
kissing Feng, and Ming reminds him the case of the bankrupt businessman.
Lirem promises to tamper with the financial records.
Ming finds Feng crying outside the pub and tries to console her.
Feng invites him over to her place and Ming accepts, but then Feng simply
shoves him into a taxi (she tested hi loyalty to Qiqi?) Larry is waiting
for Feng. Feng knows that Larry has been flirting with Molly and Larry's
denials are awkward. Feng doesn't seem hurt, she simply warns him
that Molly will outsmart him. Feng tells Larry that Molly
is having an affair with Birdy, and Larry almost chokes.
Feng suggests that Larry starts a rumor about Molly to destroy
While everybody is asleep, Qiqi and Molly chat like lesbian lovers
in a garden, and Qiqi complains that Molly no longer confides
in her like in the old days.
FInally, Molly and Akeem meet in his villa. Akeem tries
to implement Larry's scheme, but then backs out from closing the firm.
Molly is indifferent to a
wedding day. She is perfectly fine with the current arrangement:
no love, just a marriage of convenience.
The spoiled but fragile Akeem, instead, seems to desire some real love.
Qiqi walks into the writer's apartment, trying to get him to sign the
agreement for Birdy's play, but the writer kicks her out, accusing her
of using her innocent smile to get what she wants.
Ming tries to make peace with Molly at a lunch, but hurts her when he
mentions that Qiqi has been offered a new job: Qiqi kept it secret from Molly.
Larry, disappointed that Akeem didn't follow his advice to cut off funding to
Molly's firm, tells him that Molly is having an affair with Birdy.
Birdy is being interviewed live on television by
Molly’s elder sister, who is the host of a top-rated talk-show.
Molly shows up to tease Birdy. Akeem catches them together and chases
Birdy all over the stage while the crew is filming.
Molly blames her sister's decision to marry the writer for causing all their
problems: Molly has to marry a man she doesn't love, her sister is divorcing,
the firm is failing, and everybody is hurt.
Ming's boss finds out that Liren has altered the records and fires him:
now Liren is in big trouble, and may end up in jail,
and all because he wanted to do Ming a favor. Ming confesses to their boss
that it was his idea to help the bankrupt man, but the boss is not
interested in justice.
Qiqi is also furious at him because he screamed at her to choose between him
and Molly: she walks out without replying.
Ming lost his fiance and his best friend.
Birdy is skating around the actors during a rehearsal of his play
when Feng shows up for the audition: Birdy is always happy to hire a
new sexy actress.
A depressed Qiqi visits the writer again, this time just because she feels
lonely and misunderstood. The writer shows her the novel that was rejected,
"A Confucian Confusion", and tells her the plot (that seems to mirror
Qiqi's life): Confucius, reincarnated in modern Taiwan, is initially
admired for his sincerity but then suspected of hypocrisy.
Molly's sister arrives and finds Qiqi reading her husband's books the same
way that she, as a young classmate, was reading them when she fell in love
with him. She tells her husband that his new serious books hurt her because
he seems to want to lead readers to desperation.
But the writer points out that their stories show their different souls:
she runs TV shows that are all about superficial vanity, he writes books
that are about deep existential problems.
She accuses him of behaving like a reincarnated Confucius
and tells him to kill himself. But she still loves him.
Molly interrupts Birdy just when Birdy is seducing Feng, and takes him
for a night ride in her coupe, just because she's lonely and wants to vent
her frustration to an old friend. They come back yelling at each other,
just when Akeem has parked in front of Birdy's place.
Birdy is terrified that Akeem might misunderstand the situation, but
instead Akeem has come to apologize and make peace: they become friends.
Meanwhile, Larry has found Feng in Birdy's studio and is furious.
Molly is still angry at Ming (now both have lost Qiqi). They fight in a
dark alley but end up in bed. Molly tries in vain to make Ming say that
he loves her: he rambles on but doesn't say it.
Meanwhile, the writer is having a major crisis and is contemplating suicide.
He comes back to tell Qiqi that she's the only one who understands him
and he's the only one who understands her. Qiqi, scared, runs away.
The writer starts running after her taxi. Qiqi tells the taxi driver to stop
and the writer is running so fast that he hits the taxi.
The accident triggers enlightenment in the writer who gets up a different man,
determined to rewrite his books in a less tragic and more hopeful tone.
At the end of that very long night,
Qiqi walks back into Molly's office and finds her there: Molly, who has
just slept with Qiqi's husband, hugs Qiqi pretending to still be her best
friend. Akeem shows up to tell Molly that he wants to break up which is
exactly what Molly was about to tell him. Molly also wants to quit from
his company. Akeem tells her that he is in love with Birdy's cleaning lady
and that he wants to become an artist himself.
Qiqi gets a call that Ming's father has had a heart attack. She reaches
the hospital where Ming is desperately trying to see his father one last
time: his father had the heart attack after Ming refused to see him.
Qiqi and Ming discuss their breakup, then they part. But then Ming in
the elevator decides to walk back to her and, when he opens the door, he
finds that she walked back to him.
Mahjong (1996) is a screwball comedy, or, better, a nonsensical
gangster movie, but way too long and convoluted.
The titles inform us that a rich businessman has disappeared and that he owes a lot of money to the mob.
One night two punks on a pick-up truck deliberately hit a car that is parked outside a night-club
Inside the hair-dresser Jay introduces his new friend Hong Kong to some of his
Western friends: Ginger, who ten years earlier was just a show girl and she
got rich with her escort service,
Marcus, a British interior designer who was bankrupt before he met his girlfriend Alison, the daughter of a rich man.
Marcus' friend David brings a French teenager, Marthe, to his table, a woman who came all the way
from Paris to find him. Marcus is annoyed that this former girlfriend
has tracked him down, and has a few words with David,
leaving the ladies alone. Ginger thinks that the pretty Marthe has potential
and gives her her business card.
Meanwhile, a drunk Jay meets a new friend, Lunlun, one of the thugs of the pick-up.
Then he walks outside and finds out that his car has been vandalized (it's
the car of the first scene).
Meanwhile, the two thugs, Red Fish and Lunlun, have decided to help Marthe find a hotel room and Red Fish even pays for it.
Marcus comes to see her and they sleep together, but then they break up again.
Alison has left Marcus and went home with Hong Kong only to find out that
Hong Kong shares not only an apartment but also his girls with his three
housemates, which include Red Fish, Lunlun and a horny Little Buddha.
Red Fish calls his mom and finds out that gangsters came to threaten her
in their villa. Red Fish is the son of the missing businessman and her mom
knows that he owes money to the mob. She blames a woman named Angela who
swindled them ten years earlier. Red Fish tells Lunlun that he wants to take
revenge on this Angela.
Meanwhile, two sinister fellows in an expensive car have started following Red Fish: they are sent by the mob to track down his father.
Red Fish and Lunlun bring Marthe home, pretending to help here save money.
Marthe is eager to find a job but
Red Fish warns her against calling Ginger. All the communications have to
be translated by Lunlun, the only one who speaks English.
Later Red Fish explains to his cohorts that he plans to sell Marthe to Ginger
for a lot of money.
Red Fish meets Qiu, an old friend of his father, at Jay's shop.
Qiu is the businessman who protects Angela.
Red Fish instructs Lunlun to seduce her.
A stranger calls Red Fish and tells him where he can find his father.
Red Fish is angry at the old man who never cared for him.
Hi father reiterates that Angela stole all his money, and then he stole
money to get rich. The boy is ready to help him but the father now wants
to just enjoy life with his younger lover, a meek schoolteacher.
Red Fish offers Marthe to Ginger, but Lunlun warns her that it's about
escort service, i.e. a form of prostitution. Marthe realizes that she cannot
stay there anymore, and Lunlun hides her in a secret room of his father's guesthouse, which is popular with foreign students.
Hong Kong got rid of Alison, who is in love with him after just one day,
and seduces Angela.
Hong Kong and Red Fish introduce Angela to Little Buddha,
who pretends to be a fortune-telling monk. Little Buddha predicts a car accident
that sure enough happens (courtesy of Lunlun who jumps in front of a
Now that he has Angela's trust, Little Buddha tells her that the apartment in which she lives, bought by Qiu for her, is haunted by ghosts. She believes him and
Alison is still very much in love with Hong Kong even though she knows that
he is having an affair with an older woman, even if he made her sleep with
all of his housemates, even if Marcus wants her back.
The two dumb gangsters looking for Red Fish mistake Lunlun for him and kidnap
both Lunlun and Marthe.
Hong Kong is expecting Angela but instead a friend of hers show up: Angela
told her how good a lover heis and now she wants some too. Angela herself
brings another girlfriend who wants to try sex with him.
One of the gangsters is watching Lunlun and Marthe on a rooftop. Marthe
frees herself and grabs his gun just when his accomplice calls to tell him
that they kidnapped the wrong man.
Lunlun and Marthe deliver the gangster to Red Fish, who tortures him to
call the other gangster. Red Fish actually wants to bring them to his father.
Red Fish forgives Lunlun for hiding Marthe.
Red Fish, Lunlun and Marthe escort the two gangsters to his father's hiding
place only to find the old man dead: he and his schoolteacher lover
They call the cops. The cops detain Marthe, who doesn't have a place to stay.
Marcus comes to rescue her. Marthe leaves the shy Lunlun.
Lunlun is heartbroken and
Hong Kong, humiliated by Angela, has a nervous breakdown.
Qiu calls Red Fish. The truth is that Qiu gave Angela the apartment because
he owes her a lot of money. Now that Little Buddha scared away, he (Qiu) is in
trouble. But he has an idea to exploit the Little Buddha scam to make money
and wants Red Fish as a partner. Red Fish gets angry at the proposal, probably
because he sees his father in Qiu. Qiu insists and even begs, but the result
is to really infuriate Red Fish, who pulls out the gun and starts shooting
him. Qiu begs not to kill him because he wants to see his son one more time,
and again Red Fish sees his father in this selfish and failed businessman.
Red Fish accuses him of having teamed up with Angela to ruin his father but
Qiu tells him that his Angela is not "that" Angela: Red Fish has been trying
to take revenge on someone who had nothing to do with his father.
This makes Red Fish even angrier and he shoots Qiu dead.
Then Red Fish breaks down and almost kills himself.
Lunlun has had enough and Little Buddha tries in vain to convince him to stay:
Lunlun leaves his friends and walks into his father's guesthouse.
They tell him that Marthe was looking for him. He runs in the crowded streets
looking for her. In fact, she has broken up definitely with Marcus.
They finally meet and kiss.
The existential comedy Yi Yi/ A One and a Two (2000) is a bitter meditation
on the meaning of life, overloaded with philosophical observations.
At the wedding of A-Di, NJ's brother, with the woman who is pregnant of his
child, Xiao Yen, A-Di's elderly mother is unhappy.
A-Di's former fiance` shows up uninvited and makes
a scene in front of the old woman. Several relatives and friends thinks that
the bride stole A-Di from her and grandma seems to be also sorry for the whole
affair. She asks to be taken home.
The girls of the family seem to enjoy teasing Yang-Yang, NJ's child.
Ting Ting, NJ's daughter, is a quiet and shy girl who sees from the window
her best friend Lili (who lives next door) meet secretely with her boyfriend
Fatty. Ting Ting is told to bring the garbage downstairs but forgets one
bag on the balcony.
On the way back after dropping his mother-in-law back at the apartment, NJ accidentally
bumps into his first love, Sherry. They have not seen each other in years, since NJ
disappeared with no explanation, and she now lives in the United States.
NJ is shocked and hardly says a word while Sherry angrily asks him why he
never showed up at their last appointment.
Back at the wedding banquet, the child takes revenge over the girls.
It is interesting that the director tends to use the child as the main
philosopher. It is the child that comes up with sentences such as "You cannot
see what I see and I cannot see what you see".
The action is framed by the grandma's coma: it starts with the cause of that
coma, and it ends with her death. The grandma doesn't play an active role
in the film, but the characters revolve around her, psychologically and
morally. The members of the family can't communicate among themselves, so
they talk to her, who can't hear, and discuss their problems only with her.
She represents a morality that is dying away, but she inspires her family
to uphold that morality.
As usual, the film is beautifully photographed. In addition, Yang excels at
using window panes to double the dynamics: by overlapping the reflection or the
refraction of another environment to the main action, Yang provide the
characters with a broader context than just the narrow room or office where
they are moving. A woman has a crisis in a skyscraper's office and we see
(and hear) from the window the busy roads of the city. The father is in the
office and we see (and hear) his secretary outside talking to a friend on the
Yang is a master of subtlety. From the beginning a number of subplots are
interwined with the main plot (the girls teasing the child, the daughter
spying her friend's love rendesvouz from the window, the father's meeting
with his first sweetheart, etc) but they are
barely noticeable. The very reason for the tragedy (the garbage bag that
the daughter forgot to bring downstairs) is shown only for one second.
Not even Hitchcock made such a parsimonious and effective use of "signs".
The main tragic events (from the hospitalization of the grandmother to
the murder) are hardly emphasized. They happen in a few seconds, and very
often we know that something important happened only because we see an
ambulance or a police car. They are over in a few seconds. But then Yang spends
hours showing the effects of those events.
Yang is a master also at directing actors and at composing scenes.
Every detail matters and every person in the scene matters, no matter
how secondary. Each scene is carefully composed, like in a Rembrandt
The grandmother is found unconscious near the garbage dumps and taken to
the hospital. Nobody knows why she walked downstairs (except for Ting Ting,
who knows she forgots the other garbage bag).
The family is reunited twice, from a wedding to an accident.
NJ's wife Min-Min is unexceptional, NJ's brother A-Di is not very intelligent
and he owes NJ some money. Ting Ting and Yang Yang, NJ's children, are both
very good children. They are a typical middle-class family.
At school, Yang Yang has the same problems with the girls. Girls tease him, and
he has to defend himself and retaliate when he can. One of the girls is called
the "Concubine" because she is the favorite of the teacher (and maybe more
than just a favorite).
Lili lives with her single mother, an executive, and plays cello. She is far
more open than Ting Ting and far more expert in men. Her mother also has
NJ and A-Di are partners in a firm that desperately needs new ideas to survive.
One possibility is to ally with the Japanese videogame wizard Ota.
A-Di sees his former fiance Yun Yun one more time, but only to settle their finances.
Grandmother is moved back home but she is still unconscious. The doctor
recommends that the family talk to her, so that her brain stays awake.
So they take turns at talking to her, even if she can't reply.
Ting Ting feels guilty because she forgot the garbage and thinks grandma
does not want to wake up because she has not forgiven her.
Ting Ting is witness also to the breakup between Lili and Fatty and to Lili's
mother promiscuous lifestyle.
NJ discusses business with Ota and finds him to be a wonderful man, a
philosopher of sorts ("we never live the same day twice", "why aren't we
afraid when we wake up in the morning?"). Ota can even play Beethoven at
NJ's wife has a nervous breakdown because she has nothing to tell her mother
who is lying in a coma: the wife and mother realizes that her life is empty.
She decides to spend some time in a Buddhist temple.
Yang Yang has taken on a new hobby: taking pictures of people, but only
their back, because that's the part of themselves that they can't see.
Girls still persecute him and the teacher still uses the Concubine to frame him.
But he occasionally takes his revenge.
Lili has a new boyfriend and the old boyfriend, Fatty, uses Ting Ting to
send her letters. Lili is indifferent to his letters and Ting Ting is
annoyed of being used as a go-between.
A-Di is desperate for money and asks his old flame, Yun Yun, for help,
and sleeps with her like in the old days.
Lili is outraged when she finds her mom in bed with her own teacher.
The baby is born and another event reunites the family, but Yun Yun spoils
it by showing up uninvited again. This time A-Di's wife makes a scene and
kicks her out. This originates a fight among the men. Later, back home,
although it looks like a suicide attempt.
NJ flies to Tokyo to meet with Ota. But also to meet with Sherry, who flies
from the United States just to see him.
Back in Taiwan, Lili's ex boyfriend is attracted to Ting Ting and invites her to a date.
The two dates proceed in parallel. As NJ and Sherry reminesce their first
date, Ting Ting and Fatty are carrying it out. One mirrors the other.
Ting Ting is living the date that Sherry had with her father when she was young.
Yang Yang too is fascinated by a girl at school, whom he sees swimming in the
swimming pool: she is the Concubine.
Back home, he practices holding his breath underwater in the
NJ and Sherry sleep in separate rooms, though. Sherry is unhappy and still
regrets that he left her. NJ admits that he never loved anyone else.
Ting Ting's date ends like Sherry's date with her father years before.
Fatty takes a hotel room, Ting Ting is extremely shy and afraid, Fatty
can't do it, and Ting Ting feels that Fatty doesn't really love her.
At dinner, Ota again mesmerizes NJ. He is a magician and a gentleman.
But the partners call NJ to tell him that they decided to sign with
a company that merely copycats Ota's products.
NJ is outraged and ashamed, because Ota is a good man and his partners
know no pride. NJ decides to quit.
Sherry also left the hotel, without saying goodbye.
Back at home, NJ suffers a stroke in the kitchen.
Yang Yang jumps in the swimming pool all dressed up and almost drowns.
Ting Ting confronts Fatty and Fatty, visibly shaken, insults her.
Thanks to Yun Yun's help, the inept A-Di is finally able to pay back his
debt to NJ.
The following day Ting Ting learns why Fatty was so insulting and upset:
he is arrested for murdering Lili's lover (an English teacher who was having
an affair with both Lili and her mother).
Ting Ting is left heartbroken and traumatized.
This is the "real life" that Fatty was talking about. Ting Ting still lives
in a world of dreams (just like Sherry used to).
Ting Ting dreams that her grandmother finally woke up and gave her a flower.
Instead, the old woman just died. But Ting Ting does hold in her hand the
flower. Ting Ting feels that she has finally been forgiven.
The business with the copycat is a failure and the partners ask NJ back.
NJ's wife returns from the Buddhist temple.
At the funeral, the family is reunited one more time.
Yang died in 2007 at the age of 59.
(Translation by/ Tradotto da Gabriele Zobele)
Il maestro taiwanese Edward Yang
Un episodio di Guang yin de gu shi/ In Our
That Day on the Beach (1983)
Qing Mei Zhu Ma/ Taipei Story (1985) è un melodramma realista che mescola noir e nouvelle vague al
malinconico esistenzialismo di Antonioni.
Lon e Chin sono una giovane coppia in visita a un appartamento vuoto che
vorrebbero affittare. Lon veste in maniera informale, mentre la ragazza indossa
abiti dal taglio maschile e si muove con un fare da manager. Convinta di
un’imminente promozione, non ha dubbi sul fatto di potersi permettere quella
nuova sistemazione. Lavora all’interno di un grattacielo moderno come
assistente personale di una dirigente. Il suo collega e amico Ko, un architetto
che ha progettato molti edifici della zona, depresso e a un passo dal divorzio,
è evidentemente innamorato di lei.
Lon è appena tornato da un viaggio negli USA. È appassionato di Stati
Uniti e in particolare di baseball. Il padre di Chin, che gli è molto
affezionato, gli confessa di avere dei problemi finanziari. Ma ne ha anche la
sorella di Chin, Ling, un’adolescente irrequieta che chiede prestiti in denaro alla
Un cambiamento a livello dirigenziale nella società di Chin produce
come effetto collaterale la messa in discussione della sua posizione. Lei si
licenzia ma, di fatto, è stata licenziata. Quando lo racconta a Lon, lui accoglie
la notizia con indifferenza, molto più interessato alle videocassette con le
partite di baseball registrate. Stanno insieme da molto tempo, sin da quando
erano alle superiori, ma non si sono ancora sposati. Chin è delusa perché da
quando è tornato dall’America Lon sembra cambiato. Lon, che gestisce un piccolo
negozio di tessuti, ha in progetto di emigrare negli Stati Uniti per mettersi in
affari con un suo cognato che, a quanto pare, una volta avrebbe ucciso un
ragazzo di colore.
Lon incontra un vecchio amico la cui vita, da quando ha lasciato
l’esercito, è andata sempre peggio e ora lavora come tassista. Veniamo a sapere
che Lon ha fatto tappa in Giappone per salutare una sua ex ragazza, Gwen.
Una sera, raggiunta Chin in un locale, Lon viene mortificato da un uomo d’affari amico di lei e finisce col prenderlo a botte.
Ko, nel frattempo, continua a
chiamare Chin. Il padre della ragazza perde denaro al gioco e il creditore, un
amico di Lon, si rivolge a quest’ultimo. Lon non può fare a meno di togliere il
vecchio dai guai, ma quando lo racconta a Chin lei si mette a urlargli che di
quei soldi avevano bisogno. Lon, in
segreto, si incontra con Gwen, che è tornata in città. La sorella di Chin si
appassiona alle pubblicità giapponesi che trova nelle videocassette di
baseball. Quando Chin scopre che Lon si vede ancora con Gwen finisce per tirargli
uno schiaffo; lui, senza mostrare alcuna reazione, se ne va. Avvilito, raggiunge
alcuni amici e si mette a giocare a carte, perdendo tutto. In seguito, Chin nota
la sua macchina parcheggiata davanti a un locale di karaoke e lo chiama al
telefono fingendo di avere bisogno di un passaggio. Lui sta badando ai tre bambini
dell’amico tassista, che è stato abbandonato dalla moglie. Lon raggiunge il
locale e rivela a Chin di non essere più il proprietario dell’automobile. La
ragazza gli chiede di sposarsi ma ormai lui non crede più nella loro storia, e quando
lei si dichiara persino disposta a emigrare negli USA, le confessa che quella non
è mai stata una prospettiva realistica, dato che non ha il capitale per aprire
Lon prende un taxi per tornare a casa. Quando l’autista si accorge che
una motocicletta li sta seguendo, Lon scende dall’auto e colpisce l’inseguitore,
che finisce a terra. Si tratta di un adolescente invaghitosi di Chin, membro
del gruppo di amici della sorella di quest’ultima, che Lon aveva cacciato in
malo modo dopo averlo trovato sotto casa della compagna. Il giovane però si
rialza, lo insegue e lo accoltella. Lon, sanguinante, si ritrova solo, in piena
notte e in un luogo isolato. Continua a camminare lungo la strada, assai poco
trafficata, finché, alla fine, non si siede sul bordo del marciapiede e muore
dissanguato. Il suo ultimo pensiero va al baseball. Nel frattempo, Chin riceve
una telefonata dal suo vecchio capo, che le offre un nuovo lavoro: un impiego
che, ironia della sorte, ha proprio a che fare con gli USA. Chin accetta senza
mostrare particolare entusiasmo. Nel frattempo, la polizia raccoglie il
cadavere di Lon dalla strada. Il volto inespressivo della giovane donna
riflesso nel vetro di una finestra ci lascia con l’impressione che, al lavoro, avrebbe
preferito l’amore di Lon.
Kong bu fen zi/ The Terrorizers
Guling Jie Shaonian Sha Ren Shijian/The
Murder Incident of the Boy on Guling Street/ A Brighter Summer Day (1991) racconta due storie in una: quella degli adulti che devono
lottare per rifarsi una vita dopo aver lasciato il continente, e quella dei
loro figli difficili che, affascinati da modelli stranieri, si riuniscono in
violente gang. L’incedere della vicenda è molto lento, con poco trasporto
emotivo e poca azione. Lo stesso si può dire per lo stile visuale, piuttosto piatto.
Negli anni 1959/60 molte delle famiglie che risiedevano a Taiwan erano
emigrate dalla Cina continentale in seguito alla guerra civile che aveva visto la
vittoria dei comunisti sui nazionalisti. Gli studenti delle scuole superiori,
più che nello studio, sono occupati a organizzarsi in piccole gang. Uno di questi
adolescenti ruba una torcia da uno studio cinematografico in cui era andato a
spiare gli attori. Si tratta di Sir, membro di una delle famiglie arrivate
dalla Cina. Il padre sta cercando di farlo trasferire dalla scuola serale a
quella diurna e un vecchio amico, Wango, si offre di aiutarlo. Mentre i
genitori di Sir discutono della faccenda viaggiando di notte a bordo di un
autobus, incrociano un convoglio militare che va nella direzione opposta. Allo
studio cinematografico, dopo un litigio con un’attrice, il regista decide di
licenziare quest’ultima e sostituirla con un’attrice più giovane. Nell’infermeria
della scuola Sir incontra la bella Ming e si innamora di lei. Per puro caso il
regista vede la ragazza e la invita a un provino. Ming rivela a Sir di avere un
ragazzo, che si scopre essere il boss di una gang. Sir rischia di essere
picchiato dai membri della banda per essere uscito con una delle “loro”
ragazze. Honey, il fidanzato di Ming, è latitante in quanto responsabile
dell’omicidio di un altro ragazzo che l’aveva corteggiata. La famiglia di Sir
abita in un edificio giapponese in cui qualcuno ascolta canzoni giapponesi
tutto il tempo, un fatto piuttosto ironico dato che la Cina è stata in guerra
col Giappone per otto anni. L’attrazione principale per i ragazzi sono i
concerti organizzati dall’elegante Threads. Tra i cantanti, il migliore è Cat,
che è ancora un ragazzino. Cat chiede spesso alla sorella maggiore di Sir di trascrivere
per lui i versi delle canzoni inglesi. Sir cerca di evitare Ming ma lei riesce
a raggiungerlo lungo la strada: il giorno dopo ha il provino e vorrebbe che lui
l’accompagnasse, ma gli dice anche che le manca Honey. A casa, la madre di Sir
racconta ai figli di come ha incontrato loro padre a un ballo, all’epoca in cui
lei studiava per diventare insegnante e lui era un semplice campagnolo appena
arrivato a Shangai. Uno dei figli ha impegnato l’orologio della madre e la
sorella più grande gli dà dei soldi perché lo riscatti. La madre di Ming viene
portata in ospedale per una crisi d’asma. Per Ming arriva il giorno del
provino, ma Sir non è con lei: è in punizione per aver copiato a scuola. Il
padre di Sir si scusa per il comportamento del figlio e cerca di ottenere il
perdono del preside, ma quando perde le staffe davanti a lui finisce per
peggiorare le cose. Ming e la madre, una volta che quest’ultima è stata
dimessa, vanno a stare nell’affollata casa di alcuni parenti. Threads entra in
combutta con la gang di Shandong
coinvolgendo anche Sly. Per nulla disposto a
tradire i compagni, Sly alla fine collabora e si prende una rivincita su Tiger,
uno studente appassionato di pallacanestro col quale è in pessimi rapporti,
colpevole di essersi avvicinato troppo a Ming. In un’incursione dei ragazzi
della 217, la gang di Shandong, Tiger è costretto a darsela a gambe uscendo
dalla finestra della classe. La banda finisce per prendersela con Sir, anch’egli
coinvolto con Ming, ma il ragazzo viene salvato da Ma, il nuovo arrivato, che a
quanto pare in passato ha ucciso un coetaneo. A casa sua, Ma mostra agli amici
la spada che ha trovato nell’abitazione, appartenuta al generale giapponese che
Sir esce di nuovo con Ming. I ragazzi di Honey si presentano
nuovamente per rovinare il loro appuntamento, ma questa volta tra loro c’è
Honey in persona, in un’uniforme da marinaio. Inaspettatamente, Honey lascia
andare il ragazzo. Saputo del ritorno del boss rivale, la gang di Shandong si offre
di discutere pacificamente. Honey sa che Threads ha raggiunto un accordo con
gli avversari e si sente tradito. Sa anche che a Ming piace Sir, e lo rivela al
ragazzo mostrandosi addirittura disposto a lasciargliela. La sera del concerto,
con la band che suona canzoni in inglese, Honey si presenta da solo e chiede di
parlare a quattr’occhi con Shandong ma, a causa del suo atteggiamento
arrogante, quest’ultimo lo spinge sotto una macchina, uccidendolo.
Nella seconda metà del film, la gang di Honey attua la sua vendetta e
durante una notte di piogge monsoniche. In quella stessa
notte, il padre di Sir viene prelevato dalla polizia perché sospettato di
essere coinvolto con il partito comunista. Dopo la morte di Honey, Ming cade
malata e per alcuni giorni non si fa vedere. Una volta tornata a scuola, Sir le
dichiara di volerle stare accanto e proteggerla, i due si riavvicinano e
cominciano una relazione. Ming però gli rivela di avere dei flirt anche con
altri maschi, tra cui il medico da cui è in cura sua madre, cosa che turba
profondamente il ragazzo. Sir, che nel frattempo ha stretto una profonda amicizia
con Ma, comincia a mostrare un atteggiamento sempre più insofferente e ribelle
nei confronti della scuola e degli adulti. Il padre, finalmente rilasciato
dalla polizia, è costretto a chiedere perdono al preside perché il figlio non
venga espulso, ma la reazione di Sir davanti all’umiliazione del padre rende
l’espulsione inevitabile. Sir si dedica allora a studiare per l’esame
d’ammissione alla scuola diurna, in modo da rendere orgoglioso il genitore, ma in
tal modo potrà passare meno tempo con Ming.
La madre di Ming, che ha perso il lavoro, viene assunta dai genitori di Ma e comincia a vivere con la figlia in casa loro, e questo fa sì che Ming e Ma si avvicinino molto. Sir comincia così a sospettare che Ming lo tradisca con Ma, e mette in guardia l’amico. Una sera, deciso a sfidare apertamente Ma, ruba un pugnale a Cat e aspetta il rivale all’uscita da scuola, ma incontra invece Ming. Dopo una discussione con lei, in un impeto di rabbia, la accoltella a morte.
commedia esistenziale Yi Yi/ A One and a Two (2000) è un’amara riflessione
sul senso della vita stracarica di considerazioni filosofiche. Significativo il
fatto che il regista tenda ad assegnare principalmente al bambino la parte del
filosofo. È infatti questo personaggio a pronunciare frasi come: “Tu non puoi
vedere quel che vedo io e io non posso vedere quel che vedi tu”. L’azione è
incorniciata dal coma della nonna, prendendo le mosse da ciò che ha causato
quello stato e terminando con la morte della donna. Quest’ultima non ricopre un
ruolo attivo nella vicenda ma è il perno attorno a cui ruotano gli altri
personaggi e le questioni morali e psicologiche che li affliggono. I membri
della famiglia non riescono a comunicare tra loro, perciò parlano con lei, che
non può ascoltarli, e solo con lei discutono dei loro problemi. La donna è la
rappresentante di una moralità che va spegnendosi, ma allo stesso tempo sprona la
famiglia a conservare quei principi. Come di consueto, il film ha una
bellissima fotografia. In più, Yang impiega in maniera eccellente le vetrate
delle finestre per raddoppiare le dinamiche della scena: sovrapponendo il
riflesso o la rifrazione di un altro ambiente all’azione principale, Yang
fornisce ai personaggi un contesto più ampio rispetto alla stanza o all’ufficio
in cui si muovono. Una donna ha una crisi in un ufficio all’interno di un
grattacielo e noi, grazie alla finestra, vediamo (e sentiamo) le affollate
strade della città. Il padre è in ufficio e noi vediamo (e sentiamo) la segretaria
che, fuori, parla con un’amica al telefono.
Yang è un maestro del
dettaglio. Fin dall’inizio la trama principale si intreccia con una miriade di
sottotrame quasi impercettibili: il ragazzino tormentato dalle bambine, la
ragazza che spia dalla finestra gli incontri amorosi dell’amica, il padre che
si imbatte nella donna che è stata il suo primo amore, etc. La causa scatenante
del tragico episodio (il sacco della spazzatura che la ragazza ha dimenticato
di buttare) viene mostrata solo per un secondo. Nemmeno Hitchcock era tanto parsimonioso
ed efficiente nell’utilizzo dei “segnali”.
Gli eventi più
drammatici, dal ricovero della nonna fino all’omicidio, non sono mai
enfatizzati. Si risolvono in una manciata di secondi e, spesso, veniamo a
sapere che è accaduto qualcosa di grave solo perché vediamo un’ambulanza o una
macchina della polizia. Una manciata di secondi ed è tutto finito. Da lì in poi,
Yang comincia a seguire per giorni e giorni gli effetti di quegli eventi. Ma
Yang è un maestro anche nel dirigere gli attori e nel costruire le scene. Ogni
singolo dettaglio è importante così come ogni personaggio in scena, per quanto
secondario possa sembrare. Ogni scena viene costruita con dovizia, come in un
quadro di Rembrandt.
È il giorno del
matrimonio di A-Di, fratello di NJ, con la donna che porta in grembo suo
figlio, ma la sua anziana madre, Xiao Yen, non è felice. La precedente
fidanzata di A-Di si è presentata al matrimonio senza essere stata invitata e ha
fatto una scenata davanti all’anziana donna. Sono in molti, tra parenti e
amici, a pensare che l’attuale sposa abbia rubato A-Di alla rivale e la stessa
Xiao Yen sembra dispiaciuta per l’intera faccenda, tanto che, a un certo punto,
chiede di essere accompagnata a casa. Le ragazzine della famiglia si divertono
a tormentare Yang-Yang, il figlio di NJ. L’altra sua figlia, Ting Ting, è una
ragazza timida e silenziosa.
Una volta a casa, assiste dal balcone all’incontro
tra la sua migliore amica Lili (che vive nell’appartamento a fianco) e il suo
ragazzo Fatty. Così, quando le viene detto di andare a buttare la spazzatura,
scorda un sacco dell’immondizia in balcone. Nel tornare al matrimonio dopo aver
accompagnato a casa la suocera, NJ si imbatte per caso nel suo primo amore,
Sherry. I due non si vedono da anni, dall’epoca in cui NJ è scomparso senza
lasciare spiegazioni. Sherry ora vive negli Stati Uniti. NJ, rimasto di stucco,
non riesce a dire una parola quando Sherry gli chiede rabbiosa perché non si
sia più presentato al loro ultimo appuntamento. Una volta tornato al banchetto
nuziale, Yang Yang si vendica delle bambine e dei loro dispetti.
La nonna viene
ritrovata priva di conoscenza vicino ai bidoni dell’immondizia e portata in
ospedale. Nessuno sa perché sia scesa in strada (tranne Ting Ting, che sa di
aver dimenticato un sacco in balcone). La famiglia, dopo il matrimonio, si riunisce
una seconda volta per l’incidente. La moglie di NJ, Min Min, è una donna mediocre,
e suo fratello A-Di, che non brilla per intelligenza, deve dei soldi al cognato.
Ting Ting e Yang Yang sono due bravissimi figli. Quella di NJ è una tipica
famiglia di classe media.
A scuola, Yang
Yang continua ad avere problemi con le ragazze, che lo tormentano. Lui non può
far altro che difendersi e, quando possibile, prendersi una rivincita. Una
delle ragazze viene chiamata “la Concubina” perché è la favorita del professore
(e, forse, persino qualcosa di più).
Lili vive da sola
con la madre, una dirigente d’azienda, e suona il violoncello. È molto più aperta
di Ting Ting e molto più esperta in fatto di uomini, come del resto sua madre,
che ha diverse frequentazioni.
NJ e A-Di
lavorano per un’azienda che, per stare a galla, ha un impellente bisogno di
trovare nuove idee. Una possibilità è quella di collaborare con un genio dei
videogiochi, il giapponese Ota.
A-Di rincontra la
sua vecchia fidanzata Yun Yun, ma solo per sistemare delle questioni
La nonna, che non
ha ancora ripreso conoscenza, viene riportata a casa. Su consiglio del medico,
che raccomanda loro di parlare all’anziana in modo da mantenere il suo cervello
attivo, i vari membri della famiglia si alternano a turno al suo capezzale
rivolgendosi a lei anche se non può rispondere. Ting Ting si sente in colpa per
aver dimenticato la spazzatura e pensa che la nonna non si svegli perché non
l’ha ancora perdonata.
La ragazza è
testimone della rottura tra Lili e Fatty e della vita promiscua che conduce la
d’affari con Ota, NJ scopre che l’uomo è una persona straordinaria, una sorta
di filosofo (“Non viviamo mai lo stesso giorno due volte”, “Come facciamo a non
essere spaventati quando ci alziamo al mattino?”) che sa persino suonare
Beethoven al piano.
La moglie di NJ,
che non riesce a trovare nulla da dire alla madre che giace in coma davanti a
lei, ha un esaurimento nervoso: è moglie e madre, eppure si rende conto che la sua
vita è vuota. Decide così di trascorrere un periodo di tempo in un tempio
Yang Yang ha
trovato un nuovo passatempo: fotografare le persone di spalle, ritraendo quella
parte di loro che non possono vedere. Le ragazze continuano a vessarlo e il professore
continua a sfruttare la Concubina per metterlo nei guai. Lui però, di tanto in
tanto, riesce a prendersi una rivincita.
Lili ha un nuovo
ragazzo e quello vecchio, Fatty, usa Ting Ting per mandarle delle lettere. Ma Lili
rimane indifferente e la stessa Ting Ting si stufa presto di fare da tramite.
A-Di ha un
disperato bisogno di soldi e chiede aiuto alla sua vecchia fiamma, Yun Yun, con
la quale finisce a letto.
Lili scopre che
la madre va a letto con il suo maestro di musica e dà in escandescenze.
Alla nascita del figlio
di A-Di la famiglia si riunisce di nuovo, ma Yun Yun rovina tutto presentandosi
ancora senza essere stata invitata. Questa volta, la moglie di A-Di si infuria
e la caccia via, e la cosa provoca una rissa tra gli uomini. Più tardi, tornato
a casa, A-Di ha un crollo e viene ritrovato svenuto a terra, per quanto la
scena sembri suggerire quasi un tentativo di suicidio.
Tokyo per incontrare Ota. Ma non è quello l’unico scopo del viaggio. Ha infatti
appuntamento con Sherry, che sta arrivando dagli Stati Uniti solo per
incontrarlo. Allo stesso tempo, a Taiwan, l’ex ragazzo di Lili comincia interessarsi a Ting Ting e le chiede di
uscire insieme. I due appuntamenti procedono in parallelo. NJ e Sherry
ricordano il loro primo appuntamento mentre Ting Ting e Fatty vivono il loro.
L’uno si rispecchia nell’altro. L’esperienza che Ting Ting sta vivendo ora è
quella che Sherry ebbe con suo padre quando era giovane.
Ma anche Yang
Yang si è innamorato di una delle ragazze della scuola, ed è proprio la
Concubina. Dopo averla vista nuotare nella piscina della scuola, il ragazzino
comincerà ad esercitarsi a trattenere il respiro immergendo la faccia nel
lavandino del bagno.
NJ e Sherry
dormono in camere separate. Sherry è infelice e si rammarica ancora che lui l’abbia
lasciata. NJ, da par suo, ammette di non aver mai amato nessun’altra.
Ting Ting si conclude come quello di Sherry con suo padre anni prima. Fatty la
porta in un albergo ma, una volta in camera con Ting Ting, estremamente timida
e intimorita, il ragazzo non riesce a far altro che scappare, e lei capisce che
in realtà non era davvero innamorato.
A cena, Ota incanta
NJ con le sue doti di illusionista, dimostrandosi una volta di più un uomo
dall’animo nobile. NJ, però, riceve una chiamata dei suoi soci che lo informa
della decisione di firmare con un’altra azienda, la quale, banalmente, imita i
prodotti di Ota. La notizia fa infuriare e indignare NJ, che considera Ota un
uomo onesto a differenza dei suoi soci privi di dignità. Quando NJ decide di
ripartire, scopre che Sherry ha lasciato l’hotel senza salutarlo.
Una volta a casa,
NJ ha un malore mentre è in cucina. Yang Yang si getta in piscina vestito e per
poco non affoga. Ting Ting ha un discussione con Fatty che, visibilmente
scosso, finisce per urlarle contro.
Con l’aiuto di
Yun Yun, il goffo A-Di riesce finalmente a ripagare il debito che ha con NJ. Il
giorno seguente Ting Ting comprende il motivo per cui Fatty era tanto sconvolto
e aggressivo: il ragazzo viene infatti arrestato per l’omicidio dell’amante di
L’uomo, un professore d’inglese, aveva una storia non solo con Lili, ma
anche con la madre della ragazza.
Ting Ting ne esce affranta e traumatizzata.
È questa la “vita vera” di cui parlava Fatty. Ting Ting, invece, vive ancora in
un mondo di sogni (proprio come Sherry prima di lei).
Ting Ting fa un
sogno in cui sua nonna si è svegliata e le dona un fiore di carta, lo stesso
fiore che la ragazza ha in mano quando si risveglia. La nonna è morta e lei capisce
di essere stata finalmente perdonata.
l’imitatore di Ota si rivela un fallimento e i soci chiedono a NJ di riprendere
il suo posto nella società. Sua moglie fa ritorno dal tempio Buddhista. Al
funerale, la famiglia si trova nuovamente riunita.
Yang è morto nel 2007
all’età di 59 anni.