The films of Edward Yang (1947–2007) were among the first to capture the ethos of Taiwan’s rapid modernization—particularly Taipei urbanites adjusting to their global city’s ever-evolving zeitgeist—even as they exhibited a novelistic field of vision that superseded time and place. Born in Shanghai and brought to Taiwan by his family in 1949 after the end of the Chinese Civil War, Yang emerged in the early 1980s as a leading figure of the ascendant Taiwanese New Wave with his contribution to the seminal anthology film In Our Time (1982). He remained a cinematic guiding light of his country’s first postwar generation up to his magnum opus, Yi Yi (2000, NYFF38). Grounding his films in a realist aesthetic—perhaps partly owed to his formal training as a computer engineer—Yang gracefully responded to the world’s changes across seven expansive features, each one notable for their sprawling, unconventional narrative structures, effortlessly precise compositions, and largely nonprofessional casts that expressed a heartfelt, near-omniscient understanding of life on the small island nation. Likening any one of his films to a “very intimate letter to a very good friend,” Yang defined the intricacies of interpersonal relationships (among different generations and classes) with a depth of storytelling and intimacy of style that call for multiple viewings to parse.

The retrospective is occasioned by brand-new restorations of two of Yang’s rarely screened works: Mahjong (1996, NYFF34), whose new 4K restoration will have its world premiere as part of the series; and A Confucian Confusion (1994), which was both an NYFF32 Main Slate selection and an NYFF60 Revivals selection. Well overdue for a rerelease, Yi Yi (2000, NYFF38), Yang’s final and most renowned film, will receive multiple screenings throughout the series. In addition to the groundbreaking anthology In Our Time (1982), which revitalized Taiwanese narrative cinema in the 1980s and includes Yang’s first work made for theatrical release, other highlights include several of Yang’s seldom-screened films: That Day, on the Beach (1983), his first theatrical feature film and one of the greatest debuts of the 20th century; The Winter of 1905 (1982), directed by Yu Wei-cheng from Yang’s sensitive script; and Yang’s unfinished animated martial arts film The Wind (2002–2005), whose production was halted after his death. 

These films, in addition to Yang’s widely beloved works such as A Brighter Summer Day (1991), Taipei Story (1985), and Terrorizers (1986), offer audiences the rare chance to experience on the big screen the breadth of Yang’s work and his trajectory as an artist, from a screenwriter to his theatrical debut as a director to the projects leading up to his death that remain unfinished but hint at what could have been. The series comes more than a decade after the last retrospective of Yang’s work in New York, which was also presented by Film at Lincoln Center in 2011. 

Presented with the support of Janus Films. Organized by Florence Almozini and Tyler Wilson.  

Acknowledgements:
Kaili Peng and Kailidoscope Pictures; Taiwan Film and Audiovisual Institute