Yi Yi

The late Taiwanese director Edward Yang only managed to make eight features before he died of colon cancer in 2007 at the age of 59. But his work includes some of the most celebrated—and most moving—arthouse films of the era. His final feature, the 2000 drama Yi Yi, is the epic story of a middle-class Taipei family. Beginning with a wedding and ending with a funeral, the film spans a year with the Jians, whose heartbreaks and triumphs span three generations. The emotional action focuses on two male figures: NJ (Wu Nien-jen) is the middle-aged father, unsatisfied with his corporate job and tempted to stray from his stagnant marriage with an old girlfriend. His young son Yang-Yang (Jonathan Chang) is navigating the anxiety of childhood, teased by classmates but curious about the world. Throughout the course of the film, the boy takes up photography, capturing elusive images of mosquitoes and the backs of people’s heads as he tries to make sense of the world. Meanwhile the director, with the help of cinematographer Wei-han Yang, captures exquisitely composed images of adult strife, domestic arguments carefully framed in windows through which his characters become overwhelmed by reflections of the big city. For three hours, the film observes its sprawling family with a quiet tenderness. Yi Yi is part of the AFI Silver Theatre and Cultural Center’s virtual Taiwanese Cinema Rediscovered series, which includes 10 films which can be viewed throughout the U.S. and U.S. territories. The film is available to stream from Nov. 7 to 29. Tickets are available at newfilmstaiwan.eventive.org. $12.