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Yi Yi (Edward Yang) 2000

Ed Yang's Yi Yi (A One and a Two) is an excellent family drama (certainly miles ahead of such films as Tortilla Soup or The Joy Luck Club) but it's a three hours long, and not quite as profound as it thinks it is. Most of the film's annoying sermonizing comes from a young boy character. He is wise beyond his years to the point that his character is not at all believable.

Once you get past that character (who is only one of about a dozen well-drawn characters in the ensemble) the film has a great deal to offer. The film's pacing is not really that leisurely at the end as it was at the start, and the time spent watching it isn't wasted time. The director opts to direct most scenes with a nearly static camera. Long takes are the norm. This is fine, but it may require an initial stylistic adjustment for some (I am used to watching films by Carl Dreyer and Hou Hsiao-Hsien so I have a temperament for this sort of work).

The subject matter may surprise you with its accessibility, however. The humor and drama on display is universal. The film doesn't "feel" foreign at all. What it does feel is a bit alienated. The characters are all very lonely, even as they function as part of a whole (that whole is a familial and  a societal one here.) Yang seems to be telling us that we're all together because we're all alone.

***1/2

September, 2001

Jeremy Heilman