A Brighter Summer Day (1991)

Genres - Drama  |   Sub-Genres - Coming-of-Age  |   Run Time - 237 min.  |   Countries - Taiwan   |   MPAA Rating - NR
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Review by Jason Ankeny

The Taiwan portrayed in A Brighter Summer Day is a world in limbo, a dislocated society desperately seeking to make sense of itself; towards that end, the social landscape reflected by Edward Yang is one cobbled together of elements from other cultures -- in addition to the American rock'n'roll which dictates not only the musical tastes of Si'r and his friends but also their ill-fitting greaser fashions, the plot's touchstones also include a Japanese sword, Hollywood films, a Russian novel (War and Peace, specifically) and Christianity. In essence, lacking a socio- historical foundation of their own, Yang's characters attempt to discover and define themselves within the context of the global cultural overflow, creating patchwork identies from whatever pieces they can fit together. Conversely, Yang's own sense of milieu is unparalleled -- A Brighter Summer Day is a brilliant physical and social realization of the world of his childhood, a truly literary film energized by its complex, criss-crossing narratives. To call the film a Taiwanese Rebel Without a Cause is not entirely unfair -- in addition to similar existential crises and a largely nocturnal atmosphere, Yang's feeling for and understanding of youth culture is comparable to Nicholas Ray's -- but it fails to properly convey the unique vision and haunting power of the former's achievement, easily among the greatest works Taiwanese cinema has yet to produce.