Edward Yang, a former engineer who went on to become one of the most prominent figures in Taiwanese cinema as well as the winner of the 2000 Best Director award at Cannes, passed away Friday from complications of colon cancer. Writes Manohla Dargis at the New York Times of Yang and his countryman and one-time star Hou Hsiao-hsien:
Together, these new wavers pushed Taiwanese cinema into its next era with work that explored the countryâ€™s rapidly moving present as well as its history, by way of period pieces and stories set in the here and now. The two also put Taiwanese cinema on the international map, eventually becoming familiar presences at important forums like Cannes, where Mr. Yang won best director in 2000 for â€œYi Yi,â€ and the New York Film Festival.
Pierre Rissient, a former consultant for the Cannes festival, explained that in the early days Mr. Yang and Mr. Hou served as something of a team. Their approach to cinema may not have been new, at least in an international context, Mr. Rissient said. But in Taiwan and much of the rest of Asia, he continued, it â€œwas extremely fresh and extremely intimate and, at the same time, had a distance.â€ This much-remarked-upon critical distance â€” evident in Mr. Yangâ€™s beautiful long shots and leisurely takes â€” allowed characters and viewers the space and time to breathe and think. The influence of European modernists like Michelangelo Antonioni on this work is undeniable, as is its cultural specificity.
A.O. Scott‘s review of "Yi Yi" has long stood out in our mind for its ending:
Movies are an inherently, sometimes cheaply emotional medium, but it takes a lot to make a grown critic cry. As I watched the final credits of "Yi Yi" through bleary eyes, I struggled to identify the overpowering feeling that was making me tear up. Was it grief? Joy? Mirth? Yes, I decided, it was all of these. But mostly, it was gratitude.