Monday, July 02, 2007

Taking pictures of the back of your head

When I talk about experiences at the Telluride Film Festival, I often mention the wonderful surprise that was Yi Yi, a thrilling three-hour film set in contemporary Taiwan. You have to understand that another Taiwanese film that had something to do with dragons or tigers was also in the festival; we all knew that that martial arts adventure was going to hit it big. Yi Yi was the opposite: quiet, introspective, thoughtful, building up an impressive story around a family trying hard to connect. As it happened, it opened in our little Masons theater as our first screening; while it was not that well-attended at first, everyone who saw it was floored by it. The film quickly became the film to see, the film that everyone (including me, especially me) would tell other people about while waiting in line. As it happened, Yi Yi also closed our theater, a screening where we sold out and turned away nearly 100 angry people who desperately wanted to see this really magical film.

Which is why I'm stunned now, up late grading papers but about to head for bed, as I read that director-writer Edward Yang has just died, leaving Yi Yi as his final word. The movie features Yang-Yang, the young boy seen above, who takes pictures of the back of people's heads because he wants to take note of the things that people don't, or can't, pay attention to. I am saddened that Yang won't be able to show us such fascinating elements anymore.

George Wu has a wonderful review of the film in Senses of Cinema.

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