Yi Yi (2000)

Dir. Edward Yang
Starring: Nien-Jen Wu (NJ), Elaine Jin (Min-Min), Kelly Lee (Ting-Ting), Jonathan Cheng (Yang-Yang), Issei Ogata (Ota), etc.

I would recommend this to Kevin. I could see him liking this quite a bit. Next, I would recommend this to Penny and Grace. I think Chris and Mitchell would appreciate this as well, and maybe really, really like this. I want to include Don in that group, but I’m less sure. (It depends on a few factors.)This is risky recommendation to Don, but, if forced to choose, I’d actually recommend this to him. Yeah–I think you should see the film, Don. Jill and Joel are around the same level. I’d guess that Marc and Larri would think this is just OK; it would surprise me a little if they really liked this. (I can’t remember if Arlyn liked this, but my guess is that she would like this film.)

The film centers around a Taiwanese family–a middle-aged couple, NJ and Min-Min, their older daugther, Ting-Ting and their youngest son, Yang-Yang. While the film involves the family, each character has their own story, which the film follows.

Describing the film is difficult, but I would say that the film is about life–specifically the different stages in the human life cycle. I haven’t properly analyzed the film, but my guess the film wants to tell a narrative of romantic love–from childhood to the adulthood. The film does have poignant and humorous moments. If I had to describe the film I’d say it’s at half-way point between an Ozu film and a James L. Brooks one. If that appeals to you then I would definitely recommend it. The drama and comedy lean towards Brooks, but the visual quality and restrained tone lean more towards Ozu in my opinion.

Since this is one of the Best2K films, I want to put in my two cents. I can understand why one or two polls have this film near the top. Besides the fact that it’s a successful drama (with comedic moments) and a good-looking film, I think the film is ambitious–and it mostly succeeds in its ambition. At the same time, I’m a little hesistant to say the film succeeded in an exceptional way, but I think that comes down to very subjective factors. Anyway, those are some preliminary thoughts, and hopefully we can all expand on them.

8 Responses to “Yi Yi (2000)”

  1. Arlyn

    I remember really liking this, even getting a little teary-eyed.

  2. Mitchell

    I don’t think you meant to put this in the music category. I’m going to move it. Feel free to move it back if that is indeed what you meant.

  3. Reid

    I’ve been talking with some other people about this film, and it has helped me understand the film better, as well as understand my reaction to it.

    Some Possible Reasons for the Film’s Greatness

    Earlier I described the film as a half-way point between Ozu and James L. Brooks, and I want to elaborate on this. Basically, the film centers around a family–as do many of Ozu’s films and two of Brooks’ films, Terms of Endearment and Spanglish. (Brooks also has another film, How Do I Know, where he juggles multiple characters.) So there’s that connection.

    Now, the film is like a Brooks film in its mainstream sense of drama and humor. By that I mean, mainstream audiences could appreciate the drama, humor and charm of the film. Moreover, both filmmakers excel at not only creating poignant and moving drama, but they also include the type of humor you might see in a good American sit-com. When Brooks is on, he produces some of the best mainstream drama and comedy, and Yi Yi is very much in this vein.

    On the Ozu side, the film has several things in common. First, there’s the well-composed and elegant images, as well as visual moments that are quite poetic. For example, there are several reflections of characters speaking while they look out over the city. Moreover, there are moments when Yang skillfully cuts between two or three different moments. For example, there’s an ultrasound image of fetus. There’s a man’s voice speaking about life, and we would assume it’s the doctor, but then there’s a cut to a man giving a presentation about video games. Critic Kent Jones refers to these moments as “poetic overlap,” and while a part of me found them a little conspicuous, in general, I think they were effective. (I don’t really recall Ozu’s film utilizing poetic overlapping–not in the same way, but they both they have an artist’s sensibility, if not a poet’s.)

    Second, like Ozu’s films, the narrative may not be very strong or the ideas very insightful or revelatory. There’s a prosaic quality to the narrative and the characters, particularly the journey that each of them go on. After watching this film or Ozu’s, viewers might feel underwhelmed by the narrative and the characters. There is a bit of that in Yi Yi, although there are strong dramatic and comedic moments that I think mainstream viewers will find effective.

    So why is this a possible explanation for the film’s greatness? Well, to be honest, it may not be. Personally, I like this combination. At the same time, we might say this synthesis of artistic sensibility combined with more mainstream humor and drama is somewhat rare and unique. (Is that true?)

    Perhaps a stronger argument is that the film doesn’t seem to have any major flaws. Thinking of Brooks’ films underscores this aspect of the film because while Brooks likes to deal with multiple characters, my feeling is that he has trouble dealing with all of them well–some characters or sub-plots may be rushed and underdeveloped. That’s not the case with Yi Yi. The film manages all of the characters and their specific stories very well. The film is highly unified and whole.

    Some Possible Criticisms

    I don’t really have any major criticisms, but here are a few minor ones:

    1. There is a kind of predictable, maybe even a cliched situations. I’m thinking of the “lessons” each of the character seems to learn. (Too tired to write about that now, but I’ll be happy to get more specific later.)
    2. Some of the poetic overlapping seems a bit contrived and obstrusive, taking me of the film. It’s the kind of thing that really seems cool, but sometimes those ideas can be a little disappointing.
  4. Arlyn

    “Poetic overlap?” Is that what it’s called? I’m remembering the part of the movie when the scenes cut between the father and daughter. At first I thought the father was looking back to when he was younger, on a date. But the scenes were both taking place in present time. The stories were just very similar. I think the father was meeting a long lost love at a movie theater. And his daughter was meeting her date at a movie theater too?

    Compared to other movies on the list, it may be underwhelming like you said. I liked it for this reason though.

  5. Reid

    Kent Jones used the term “poetic overlap” to describe certain sections of the film. Putting the scenes with the father and his old flame and the daughter going out on a date might qualify, but there are others that are better examples. I mentioned the ultrasound of the fetus juxtaposed with the Ota talking about computer games. There’s another scene when the school children are watching a nature film in a dark theater. The images and narration center around a storm and we see Yang-Yang staring at the girl as if he’s starting to become attracted to her.

    Compared to other movies on the list, it may be underwhelming like you said. I liked it for this reason though.

    Can you expand on that? Usually “underwhelming” isn’t a positive description for a film. Do you mean you like the subtle and restrained quality of the film?

  6. Arlyn

    Subtle is exacly what I meant. I want to watch this again eventually.

  7. Reid

    Yeah, I wouldn’t mind purchasing the dvd.

    On another note, have you seen any of Yang’s other films? I haven’t, and I really want to see A Brighter Summer Day, Terrorizers and basically anything he’s made.

  8. Arlyn

    No, I haven’t seen these films but would like to also!

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