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Friday, June 30, 2017

Edward Yang. 10 Years later + Brighter Summer Day cast reunion

The great filmmaker Edward Yang passed away exactly 10 years ago.

That was 2007. I remember it most for being the year I got into the film industry. It was that one year between my return from Perth (late 2006) and my subsequent relocation to Tokyo (April Fool 2008).

5 years ago, to mark the 5th anniversary of his passing, I wrote this post about his films.

In that post, I remembered and chronicled my experiences of watching four of his films.

(in this order)


On the first time I saw YI YI:
In the course of the film's 3-hour running time, I found myself mesmerized and amazed by the novelistic scope of the film, which seemed to cover every single aspect of humanity in the film. It was an absolutely rich experience, that the film would follow the lives of a typical Taiwanese family in the span of a year, beginning with a wedding and ending with a death, and the middle of it, we see the Father reminiscing his past love with an old lover, the Mother crying over the monotonous everyday life she had led, the Daughter undergoing the experience of first love, and the Son, gradually finding his own artistic side, taking photos of people's backs because he wanted to take photos of things that people could not see.

Just like how the film was subtle in its majesty, my life, in a subtle way, was altered after watching the film, I never realized how much it would impact me.

One particular scene that stood out to me had been a masterful sequence which featured a crosscutting between Father speaking to his old lover about their previous relationship while they were both in Japan, and Daughter, during her chaste first date. I stopped and looked at the sequence over and over, years later I would attempt its editing methods on Ming Jin's film WOMAN ON FIRE LOOKS FOR WATER, and a couple of my shorts.

On the first time I saw A BRIGHTER SUMMER DAY:
It was also in 2008 when I saw the 4-hour film A BRIGHTER SUMMER DAY (1991). This would end up as my favourite Edward Yang film of them all. Again, this was a sprawling tale set in the 60s and revolves around a 14 year old boy. The literal Chinese title was "THE MURDER INCIDENT IN GULING STREET", which was an incident that really happened during Edward Yang's teens, when a teenaged boy murdered his girlfriend who happened to also be involved with a teen gang leader. Therefore, knowing Chinese, what exactly happened towards the end of the film wasn't exactly a surprise, but watching it placed in context of the Taiwanese political environment then, and seeing how it affected the many primary characters in the film (the film had a cast of hundreds of amateurs), gradually consuming and eating their souls, the ending was inevitable.

Interestingly, in that post, I wrote about hearing news of A BRIGHTER SUMMER DAY being restored, and how I have yearned to see the film on big screen. That was 2012. I managed to fulfil that dream at Busan Film Festival 2015.

From 2007 to 2010, I only managed to watch 4 of his films.

From 2010 to 2013. I finished the rest of the films from his filmography. MAHJONG, THAT DAY ON THE BEACH, and finally, TAIPEI STORY.

Those old posts I wrote, they are more detailed when it comes to articulating how I felt about the films.

Anyway, in the last few days, as usual, a few film friends on Facebook had been commemorating and celebrating the works of Edward Yang.

I joined in.

And finally, a video from a recent BRIGHTER SUMMER DAY cast reunion. Somehow I can only embed the video and not my post, so I'll include what I wrote on my FB post.

10 years ago Edward Yang passed away. After his death I started watching his films. It was a year after I got back from Perth and a year before I moved to Tokyo.
I started with YI YI, it opened my eyes to the possibilities of cinema. After that, I went to Tokyo, on one afternoon I managed to watch BRIGHTER SUMMER DAY. Life changed. I have watched the film a few times in the past decade, including its restored version on the big screen. Aside from Chang Chen,Elaine Jin and Lawrence Ko, most of the cast members remained in my mind, perpetually frozen in time, looking the way they look in the film.

So it feels so amazing to see this BRIGHTER SUMMER DAY cast reunion!!! Everyone looks so different after 25 years! Especially Cat, seeing him as an adult blows my mind (he's supposed to be in subsequent Edward Yang films but I couldn't recognise him)

Friday, June 09, 2017

Remembering Auntie Tan

Exactly a week ago, I was taking a plane to Langkawi for a wedding. A few hours before I flew off, I paid my respects to Auntie Tan, a dear family friend who passed away the night before.

While I was flying I wrote a post to remember her.

I am writing this while I’m flying to Langkawi for a wedding. It’s one of those pleasant flights where I’m fortunate enough to have an entire row for myself. Too bad the flight is so short.

Right now, I want to write about a very dear family friend who had just passed away yesterday. All these years, I’ve called her “Auntie Tan”. A great friend of my mom’s, a person our entire family had been very fond of.

This morning before going to the aiport, I went to her house to pay my last respects. That was the least I could do. I was going to miss her funeral for a wedding, it almost felt like a dark cosmic twist.

“Always cheerful, always smiling and always laughing, this is how I will always remember you. Thank you.” I said in my heart as I stood before her coffin.

I first met her when I was 15, it was a trip to Hong Kong. It was a momentous Buddhist occasion. A bone fragment of the Buddha was being venerated and exhibited in public. Coming along with my family were two of my mother’s friends, one was Auntie Jennifer, the other was Auntie Tan. I knew Auntie Jennifer before that because her son is a friend from high school (while her other son would later marry my cousin :D ) our connections are quite deep, apparently.

Some of my memories of Auntie Tan, for me, are of the family trips we took over the years, usually for Buddhist reasons. Hong Kong in 1999, a memorable trip to India in 2007. Or the Buddhist ceremonies she would always attend with mom. I remember too the durians she brought us. They are just simple memories, nothing dramatic, but the way she called my name was rather distinctive too. (sounds more like 宇恒/以恒 than 毅恒)

We learnt that she had cancer a few weeks ago. Since then I have visited her a few times. She remained in good spirits, telling me about a niece of hers that she really wanted me to meet because she's studying performance art. Also reminded me that I can just treat her like my own mom.
There’s not more I can say, but also a memory I have of Auntie Tan. It's a memory of a personal loss.
14th of July, 2012. My grandmother died. We rushed to Ipoh, and spent the entire night chanting mantra. My uncles and aunts, my cousins, we were all awake the whole night to give my grandmother a proper send-off.

One of the most unexplainable things about my grandmother’s passing is that I couldn't seem to cry at all. Despite how close I was to her since I was a child. The tears flowed freely from those around me, yet my eyes were so, so dry. From learning news of her death to the funeral to the burial. It baffled me. Was I so numb?

But my memory is inaccurate, just like the above paragraph. Some brief moments tend to linger longer than others.
On the morning of 15th of July, as the earliest light of the sun lit up the sky, we started making preparations for grandma’s funeral. In the midst of this, the first two people to arrive, who drove more than 2 hours to Ipoh, were Auntie Jennifer and Auntie Tan.
When I saw them standing in front of the gate, looking for my mom, I cried then.

(This photo was taken in 2010, Chinese New Year. We were visiting Auntie Tan's house. She was offering me my most beloved pineapple tarts. In the background was her husband Uncle Tan, who passed away not long after this photo was taken. Rest in peace.)

Auntie Tan, Uncle Tan and Seng Guan