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  • Amir Steklov

A Brighter Summer Day - (1991)

Director: Edward Yang.

A Brighter Summer Day - 牯嶺街少年殺人事件

Is probably the most influential Taiwanese-New-Wave film.

Directed by 楊德昌 (Edward Yang), the film portrays the life of middle/low class Chinese immigrants/refugees to Taiwan in the 1960s, their struggle to maintain a civic society and their obsession over controlling each other’s life.

This is a very long film (237 minutes) and it is hard to watch in one go. The last part of the film is amazing, heart-breaking, and perfectly done. But to get there you will need to embark on a long journey that will feel repetitive and redundant at times.

What strikes me the most in this film is the obsession of appropriating other people: man/boys appropriating women/girls; The government appropriating information about people’s life; gangs appropriating territory and power; cultural places appropriate American pop culture.

The biggest losers of those power dynamics are women, and during most of the film I found myself cringe in front of the humiliations, and helplessness of the women characters. I was thinking the director might have not been aware of that, and maybe I’m just looking at the film from a "Woke" perspective, but at the final act of the film things have changed:

When the main character is taking the life of a female character, the illusion of appropriating and objectifying her shutters in front of his eyes. His realization of his crime goes deep to break all his assumptions about the power relations in his community – And as that, it’s a good massage to convey to the audience.

Another very important element in this film is the Chinese civil war. The war is always in the background, and the Kuomintang refugees (adults) in Taiwan are talking about it from time to time. Their children are forming gangs and almost re-enact the civil war that they inherit from their parents’ stories.

I never thought about it like that before, but after watching this film I understand better the distractive forces of western colonialism in China. How western capitalism was distractive to the great Chinese empire as communism was. It’s heart-breaking to see the youth in Taiwan during the 1960’s listening the Elvis Presley and wearing American clothing. Another appropriation that shutters the fabric of society.

Verdict: 5 / 5 ★ - Masterpiece.

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