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Yi Yi - A One & A TwoTaiwan 2000
Directed by Edward Yang
Running time 173 minutes
The Cannes jury gave writer/director Edward Yang the Best Director Award for this portrait of an extended Tapei family whose many criss-crossing lives are carefully mapped out to reveal the poignancy of the everyday in a well-observed film.
The family in question is that of NJ (Nien-Jen Wu), a partner in a failing business who is questioning his choices in life. His brother-in-lay who owes him money is getting married and at the wedding reception he accidentally meets an old flame (Su-Yun Ko) and begins to wonder if there’s a chance he could start afresh.
Yang begins his film in a comedic vein with a wedding banquet before immersing us in the saga of the mundane trials and tribulations of multiple characters variously connected to NJ. The jolly tone soon evaporates and the film is rather sombre in its depiction of those lives in which happiness is not really the appropriate word – regret, disappointment, frustration and feelings of inadequacy come more readily to mind – but it is a marvellously well brought-off instance of that oft-tried cinematic goal, the tapestry of life.
Yang achieves a wonderful balance of characters with NJ, his teenage daughter Ting-Ting (Kelly Lee) and his philosophically-inclined seven year old son, Yang-Yang (Jonathan Chang) providing the main narrative threads which are interwoven with other more tangentially seen characters as Yang gives us the alpha and omega of life, love and death for the modern man and woman. To this purpose Yi YI is an enormously rich, deftly constructed and superbly well-realized film, although whether it needed to be three hours long is another matter.