Many U.S. moviegoers didn’t discover Edward Yang until Yi Yi (2000), his breathlessly praised film about a family in Taipei that snagged best director at the Cannes Film Festival and became one of the most-loved features of the new millennium. By then, the master of New Taiwan cinema already had two decades of films behind him, but many remain exceedingly difficult to find to this day.
Beginning next Tuesday (November 22) and continuing through the end of the month, the Film Society will present a complete retrospective of Yang’s work, including a week-long engagement of A Brighter Summer Day (1991, pictured), marking the U.S. theatrical debut of the film that The New York Times‘ A.O. Scott wrote “achieves an almost Tolstoyan density and gravity.” The four-hour epic intimately explores a true-life murder case amid a transforming society in 1960s Taiwan. A milestone in Yang’s career, the movie counts among its biggest fans Wong Kar-wai and Martin Scorsese, who calls it “one of the greatest films of a great filmmaker, who left us far too early.”
Yang, who spent much of his adult life in the U.S., died of cancer in 2007. He was 59.
The extremely rare series that will accompany Summer Day provides a chance to follow Yang’s career all the way from That Day, on the Beach (1982), his debut, to Yi Yi, his last completed film. (That Day, on the Beach also marked the debut of legendary cinematographer Christopher Doyle.) A highlight is In Our Time, a 1982 anthology film featuring shorts by Yang and three of his contemporaries at the forefront of the New Taiwan cinema movement in the 1980s.