A Brighter Summer Day

1991

Crime / Drama / Romance

200
Rotten Tomatoes Critics - Certified Fresh 100%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience - Upright 94%
IMDb Rating 8.4 10 6,526

Synopsis


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May 12, 2020

Director

Cast

720p.BLU 1080p.BLU
2.12 GB
1280*720
Chinese 2.0
NR
23.976 fps
237 min
P/S N/A / N/A
3.94 GB
1920×1080
Chinese 2.0
NR
23.976 fps
237 min
P/S N/A / N/A

Movie Reviews

Reviewed by cranesareflying 10 / 10 / 10

one of the greatest films of all time

This film is prefaced in a historical context, with the understanding that Chinese Taiwan was formed in 1949 with several million Chinese being forced to cross over into Taiwan from mainland China, into a world they knew nothing about, so they were required to build their new lives with great insecurity about the future, and this film is about their first generation of offspring, the anxieties of the parents created a world of anxieties for their children, who search for their own greater security and their own self identity through the formation of street gangs, whose inner turmoil is largely a reflection of the world around them. The Taiwanese identity is revealed to be a sense of perpetual exile. Edward Yang's own father fled from Shanghai. Artifacts from other countries have great impact in this film, the use of Japanese samurai swords which are ultimately used as murder weapons, Russian novels are read by teenagers and understood as `swordsmen' novels, a family's observation that the Chinese fought the Japanese for 20 years only to then live in Japanese houses listening to Japanese music, an old tape recorder that has been left behind by the WWII American forces is used to adapt American lyrics and American rock n roll music for the Chinese, the film features American doo-wop music, first love, cigarettes, casual dress, the influence of Hollywood motion picture magazines and movies, the voice of John Wayne can be heard in one of the movie theaters, the title of the film comes from the Elvis Presley song, `Are You Lonesome Tonight,' a comment on the dark cloud hanging over everyone's heads, hardly a brighter, summer day. The film took 5 years in preparation, and although completed in 1991, it has never found a distributor, it involves a cast of over 100 speaking parts, largely non-professional teen-age actors, 92 different sets, it takes place in the poorer Tapei district in 1961, using the filmmaker's own memories of his adolescence, shot at his high school, inspired by a true incident of a 14 year old boy murdering a 13 year old girl, the first juvenile murder case in Taiwan's history, the film opens and closes with an old, broken down radio broadcasting the lists of graduating students. In this context of a repressive, militaristic government, family chaos, the constant threat of gang fights, the need for a good education, the idea that hard work can bring success, is seen as paramount. For all those `Yi Yi' fans who don't understand the complexity of this film, let me just remind you about the title, `A Brighter, Summer Day,' this is a film for which those words have no meaning, and unlike `Yi Yi,' which had the charming optimism of Yang-Yang, an as yet undeveloped child who has a future, `Yi Yi ` was much more a `perfect' film, everything was neatly examined and explained, there's a perfect symmetry, on whole it's balanced, it feels like a complete experience, but `A Brighter Summer Day' offers no such peace of mind, it's a raw emotional roller coaster where the last hour or so is filled with such complete anguish and despair, nearly all the family members have their singular moments where they are the focus of the pain and anguish, the understated personal horrors can leave one breathless. Most of the world's viewing audience of films have been spared this kind of personal degradation, and therefore have no personal reference points to connect with such despair, but Yang, to his credit, spares no one. The film's greatness lies in it's complete lack of artifice, it's meticulously chosen shot selection, brilliant imagery mixed with an equally brilliant narrative, a devastating portrait of children on the precipice of darkness, one of the more complex human examinations of the after-effects of a subjugated nation, which is still, at heart, a police state, yet there is a breaking out from the bonds of repression by rebellious teen-age kids who have affectations of violence and a love of Elvis, freedom, and rock n roll.

Reviewed by howard.schumann 10 / 10 / 10

Touchingly intimate

After the Communist victory in the civil war of 1949, some 1.3 million refugees from Mainland China came to Taiwan. It was a time when the island was governed by a dictatorship in which all political parties other than the Kuomintang were outlawed, and political opponents were persecuted, jailed, and executed, a continuation of the White Terror campaign launched after the 2/28 incident. Uncertain about their future and shaken by the weakening of family traditions, immigrant teenagers joined street gangs like the Little Park Gang and fought against indigenous island groups such as the 217 to strengthen their sense of security. There have been many great films about the teenage years, but few capture the roller coaster emotions, the sudden shifts of friendships and loyalties, the insularity and the need to belong as authentically as Edward Yang's epic four-hour masterpiece A Brighter Summer Day. The film about Taiwanese youth looking for their place in the world takes place in 1960, eleven years after the defeat of Chiang Kai-shek in the Communist Revolution of 1949, and is based on an actual incident that occurred in Taipei in which a 14 year-old boy killed his 13-year old girlfriend, the first juvenile homicide in Taiwan's history. Shot mostly in darkness, much of the action takes place at night or inside houses, schools, or dance clubs, producing a feeling of growing anxiety. As detailed as a novel, the film lasts almost four hours but nothing seems superfluous and the darkness and uncertainty build slowly towards a powerful and inevitable climax. Young actors were recruited from Taiwan schools and trained for the film over a period of years by Edward Yang, then a teacher in the drama department of the National Institute for the Arts and the performances are impeccable. There are 100 speaking parts in the film though we get to know the characters only by their gang names such as Airplane, Sly, Cat, Worm, Animal, Underpants, Honey, Elephant, Tiger, and Ma. Xiao S'ir is one of five children and is considered a top prospect to enter college. Chen Chang, who went on to star in such films as Happy Together, 2046, and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, portrays S'ir as a bright and sensitive 14-year old but lacking in respect for authority. Drawn into the culture of gangs, he is ultimately driven to defend what he conceives to be his honor without considering the consequences. His father (Guozhu Zang) is a civil servant who sees his influence waning and his pleas to school officials to forgive S'ir's transgressions often fall on deaf ears. The father is arrested by the police and badgered to reveal his associates in China which brings an added strain to the already vulnerable family. The influence of other cultures also creates confusion. Both the use of Japanese swords as murder weapons and American music including an Elvis Presley song play a major role in the film and the family's complaint that they fought against the Japanese for years and now are living in a Japanese house listening to Japanese songs is revealing. As the teens struggle to come to terms with an increasingly chaotic world, an offhand remark often leads to unverifiable conclusions and a chain of events that veers out of control. S'ir's world begins to unravel when he falls for a would-be actress named Ming (Lisa Yang) who is the girlfriend of Honey (Lin Hongming), a soulful gang leader who had killed one of Ming's suitors and gone into exile. When Honey is murdered by Shandong (Alex Yang), a rival gang leader, an all-out confrontation between gangs takes place in a driving rainstorm. As a result of Honey's death, Ming becomes all too available to S'ir's friends, a circumstance that leads to tragedy and the loss of a once promising future, perhaps a metaphor for the island itself. Like Hou Hsiao-hsien's City of Sadness, A Brighter Summer Day is not a political film but a work of art that shows how individual experience is impacted by the flow of time and history. Interweaving social and political events into a very personal experience, the film touches us with its lyricism, the authenticity of its awareness, and its genuine caring for its characters. Though sweeping in scope, it is full of touchingly intimate moments and, for all the tough talk of the gang members, the characters have an endearing sweetness and innocence, sadly lost forever in an unthinking moment.

Reviewed by liehtzu 10 / 10 / 10

Incredible epic of Taiwan street gangs

Edward Yang's massive four hour epic "A Brighter Summer Day" is one of the true masterpieces of the 1990s and of the "New Taiwan cinema." It's ostensibly the story of a few rival street gangs in '60s Taiwan, but the film is about a single young man's rites of passage in an era in which his country was experiencing a major upheaval. The film is so meticulous in its construction and its feeling of community (its preparation, filming and post-production took several years) that at the same time its length automatically gives it an epic quality it is a remarkably intimate film that is about as far from an epic in the traditional (Hollywood) sense as possible. There are over a hundred speaking parts in the film and it is necessary to stay focused in order to keep track of what's going on and to whom, which is a good trick to make sure your audience is always paying attention. "A Brighter Summer Day" is a very personal vision that recalls both Yang's own childhood and an actual street murder that shook the nation. The film itself slowly builds towards this singular act of violence that, when it finally arrives, is both shocking and inevitable. "A Brighter Summer Day" keeps with the trend among the finest films to emerge from Taiwan in that it is very pared down - the cast are all nonactors and there is no non-diagetic music. It is beautifully shot, moving from the interiors of houses, schools, and cheap dance clubs to the open fields of the countryside in summertime. Alternating between violence and serenity, the film is a rhythmic and poetic evocation of a particular era. Its ironic title (in that there is no "brighter summer day" for these characters) is taken from an Elvis song that one of the kids sings at a nightclub. It is a truly exemplary modern masterpiece that got no distribution in the West but deserves to be hunted out at all costs by those who love and cherish the film art.

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