Yi Yi Edward Yang

This beautifully shot film that chronicles the lives of a middleclass family in Taipei doesn’t have that much of a plot but manages to keep you completely engaged during its lengthy three hours. With the use of long shots and unedited scenes, the viewer feels like a fly on the wall as we watch a father’s temptation pan out as he resists a chance to rekindle a romance that blossomed previous to his marriage. We also get to see torment being channelled into creativity as tiny son Yang-Yang combats school life with his newfound love for photography and manages to become one of the most adorable child characters of all time. Marriage and death enter the picture through these separate story lines and they occasionally intertwine but continue to venture in new directions, with some tying together at the end but not all. There are many sweet moments director Yang lets us take in during the slow pace of Yi Yi and in the end, we love these characters because we grow accustomed to watching them in every day life. Yi Yi won a tonne of awards when it came out in 2000 (including "Best Director” at Cannes) and it’s easy to see why, as this is simply a gorgeous film to watch with fantastic cinematography and a loving touch. This Criterion DVD is lacking extras for such a fine piece of work, as the only two features are a commentary track with Yang and Asian cinema critic Tony Ryans, who also presents a small piece on the arrival of Taiwan’s new breed of director. Like most Criterion editions, there’s a massive booklet that offers more details but it would be nice to have those stories on the screen. Regardless, Yi Yi as a film on its own is enough to make this essential viewing. (Criterion/Paradox)