Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Day 321 - Yi Yi

Yi Yi (2000) directed by Edward Yang

Yi Yi is a critically acclaimed film that won a bunch of awards at prestigious film festivals back in 2000 so I was both excited and hesitant to watch it. I say hesitant because if it was really good then I'd have to do a super long blog entry about it but if I didn't really like it then I'd be afraid of looking like an idiot. I think I stepped around these films too gently in other posts, but I will try to be as honest as I can. I was pretty underwhelmed by Yi Yi. Perhaps I haven't given it enough thought and let it soak in or my expectations were just too high, but I didn't really see what the big deal was. That isn't to say I think this is a bad movie, it clearly isn't, but I wonder why this film could be so unanimously loved. Do all critics recognize something in films that casual watchers do not? How were they all so enthralled by a three hour minimalistic melodrama while I was sort of wondering if it would ever go anywhere?

Yi Yi begins with a wedding and ends with a funeral and in the middle is every day life in between. It follows the lives of a seemingly normal Taiwanese middle class family and they appear to be perfectly normal indeed. But when observing their lives we become acutely aware that even normal every day life is a messy affair. There doesn't have to be some artificial movie drama inserted into their lives for us to recognize their love, grief, sadness, anger, pain, stress, regret, joy and so forth. Human drama is exactly just that, human. What this film is saying is that every day life has enough moments in it to make a story compelling without adding in unnecessary touches. I guess my problem is that I don't necessarily agree, at least with regards to this film. I realize that I am probably being hypocritical since I've praised similar type movies like Still Walking but for whatever reason I couldn't really connect to Yi Yi in that way, which makes for a long, uneven, and at times boring experience. There were some parts that I simply didn't care at all about, like the man and his crazy ex-girlfriend and most of the teenage love triangle. But there were other parts that I cared a lot about such as NJ remicing with an old flame and basically anything with the young son Yang Yang.

There are some great scenes throughout but in my opinion came too few and far between. One of my favorite scenes involved NJ talking about his old relationship with his college sweetheart. They are walking the streets of Tokyo talking about how they first held hands in a similar spot while at the same time NJ's daughter is beginning her own romance and the two scenes cut back and forth between each other. All my other favorite moments involve Yang Yang including the heartfelt ending where he reads a message to his grandmother.

Anyways, it is tough to say I enjoyed this film because I don't really think I did. I did appreciate certain aspects of it but again, it's hard to say that I felt much throughout because I don't really think I did. I'm going to sound like a total moron here because I've already read professional critic reviews praising the direction and cinematography of the film; I guess I just sat through an entire three hour movie without really noticing that part. I guess I was just too focused on trying to like the story first.

Grade: C+

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