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A Brighter Summer Day Reviews

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Super Reviewer

January 4, 2012
a fantastic film restored this year by scorsese's world cinema foundation, here's hoping this gets a dvd release sooner rather than later. some issue with the taiwanese government has been holding it up for at least 3 years. there is a crap version on google video with mostly unreadable subtitles :( the film follows the 1960s generation youth, their obsession with getting into good schools, gang life and american pop culture. patience will be rewarded here; as anyone who has seen 'yi yi' can attest, yang's realism is on a whole other level
Christopher B

Super Reviewer

August 6, 2013
One of the most amazing films I've seen in a long time. Life changing.
April 14, 2011
Tough to find, would like to see a version that isn't from google video, with cleaned up subtitles (again, please, no white subtitles on white backgrounds) because I only speak English and even that's sketchy. The movie as it was felt a little bit like Far East-side Story, lots of gang war and forbidden love on the surface. But unlike West Side Story, no white people cast to play Taiwanese. Also, that's just on the surface, quite a bit goes on in this movie, as it is 4 hours long, so do check it out.
February 23, 2010
There is a certain feeling that one feels when watching an Edward Yang film. It?s a mixture of both sadness and joy. The sadness stems from knowing Yang?s short lived career has only given us eight films, but the joy kicks in when you realize these are eight of the greatest films in existence. Of the three Yang films I?ve seen prior to A Brighter Summer Day, Yi Yi, is my favorite. Yang?s capabilities of bring life to his characters, to keep his audience on edge sans typical suspense film tropes. We are the voyeur, and we?re watching Yang?s world.

A Brighter Summer Day is nothing short of brilliant. While Yang?s films always feel personal, as if he?s emotionally connected in some way to his characters, Summer Day feels like his most personal. Following Xiao Si?r felt as if I was following an older version of Yang (granted with a brighter future.) In addition to the self inflicted problems of Xiao Si?r, we?re allowed a glimpse into his family during a tumultuous time. And throughout the 237 minute run time, nothing is ever clear until you?ve finished it. Names are said, but you never really know who is who. I didn?t figure out one character?s name until three hours in (Cat), and not at the detriment of the film. In actuality, it makes me want to go back and watch it again. (I?ll wait for the newly renovated World Cinema Foundation restoration.)

As usual, I daren?t delve deeper into the story, because I hate ruining things for people, but this is a film that can?t be missed.
September 27, 2012
Wow. This is fantastic! And utterly heartbreaking. If you don't mind sitting around for 4 hours reading subtitles, then this is a must see! Let's hope Criterion can work out the rights for a DVD release soon.
May 8, 2014
A Brighter Summer Day (1991) - 9,5

"A Brighter Summer Day" is a terrifying film, showing the harsh reality of Taipei's streets in the 60s after the Chinese Civil War, that took place between 1946 - 49, forced millions of Mainland Chinese to flee to Taiwan. Hauntingly ruthless reality as if it had been rescued from the memories of someone who lived it as a teenager. The film focuses at this stage of life of a boy, the collapse of illusions, search for identity, paving way through emotional turmoil, learn to grow from marking experiences, all this becomes more urgent in the severe struggle for survival within the sea of street gangs that instigate a culture of violence and transgression among the youngsters. The teenage mob, permeable to external factors by nature, has in Taiwan multicultural melting pot a major influence for either the better or worse. Without the strong lead from previous generations, youths can find themselves helpless in a volatile and merciless world.

"A Brighter Summer Day" is usually labelled as a Drama. In my opinion, the experienced world is too stark and ruthless to have a merely neutral attitude towards it, any glimpse of hope or optimism is fleeting and soon turn mirage. I'd say this is a fine Horror specimen in equal measure, probably one of the very best I've seen. It does remind me of Kurosawa's "Ran" in its disenchanted view of the cruel human nature. The difference is that "Ran" softens (in a counter-productive manner) the impact of violence and brutality depicted on the screen by way of Kurosawa's style and for the fact that it is an allegorical fiction while Yang's work, on the contrary, enhances even more what could have been a real experience through very raw, yet intelligent and subtle cinematics. Some scenes evoked in me genuine feelings of horror and despair like no other film has done in a long time, "City of God" (2002) from Fernando Meireles is similar in this aspect, or at least has the same potential, and I wouldn't be surprised if the Brasilian director had taken inspiration from the Taiwanese work. It's frightening and deeply heartbreaking to imagine myself living those worlds in my own skin as a child or teenager.

Yang has great cinematic skill and this film easily immerses, curiously the bad picture quality enhanced even more the power of persuasion making the experience all the more haunting to me, for once I'm glad I didn't watch a film in HD. The acting is surprisingly accomplished taking into account that more than 100 amateur actors were used, it didn't actually seem to me that so many actors were ever on the screen, the film felt quite consistent and uncomplicated on the whole. The only thing that I would change are some of the last moments, I didn't feel as involved as in the rest of the film, the persuasive factor decreased very quickly. I felt there was a bit of dragging and the expression of religious disappointment towards the main character's tragic fate seemed redundant to me. This won't irk my appreciation for this work, but it wouldn't hurt to edit away a few minutes of redundant footage at the end of a film that is virtually perfect over 4 hours, only my opinion. It makes sense to say this is a technically perfect work.

This is the second work of Edward Yang to get printed in my memory, another masterpiece. The heritage of "A Brighter Summer Day" inherited by "Yi Yi" is easily recognizable in the plot, style, the way that thematics are developed and even in the brilliant moments of cinematic introspection, but this doesn't decrease "Yi Yi's" value in my eyes because both films have very different qualities. "Yi Yi" focuses on broader themes without the gloominess that plagues "A Brighter Summer Day" and the visuals are more polished. "Yi Yi" makes me feel like I experienced a whole life filled with bittersweet enchantment, "A Brighter Summer Day" makes me feel like I experienced a living nightmare during the brief period of a troubled youth. Both works are rich in thematic substance and equally epic, but they're completely different worlds. "A Brighter Summer Day" is wonderful and deeply moving, highly recommended!
February 14, 2014
Another of Edward Yang's epics. It's nearly 4 hours long but you have to stick it through to the end. Otherwise you will never be able to understand the full reach and scope this films attains. I wish I had watched a better quality version but until Criterion releases it. we are all stuck with secondhand copies. Still very worth seeking out!!
September 11, 2012
Edward Yang is so dead.
January 22, 2012
Based on the adolescent experiences of the director, Edward Yang, A Brighter Summer Day evinces itself to be both a visceral and celebrate storytelling of youth within 'White Terror' Taiwan, filled with convicted acting and native idiomatic dialogue. While extraordinarily lengthy, the film does not waste it's runtime in mundane trivialities, rather suits it's purpose in displaying the personae of the gang-members and common citizens, and goes to speciality to focus on Xiao Sir, and the murder he commits spurred by an ill-fated romance. This film became all the more favorable to me when it's title was shown to have come from the lyrics of an impassioned Elvis song. Chalked with bittersweet realism and saturnine intertwining passages, this expressive drama takes to a grade not so often seen by any filmgoer.
March 14, 2008
One of the best films I've ever seen!! Easy to call it a Masterpiece! How this film isnt celebrated and watched as much as it should is a true crime. This film stands up with the best of them; a thoughtful, relevant, historical film. A War and Peace epic that focuses on the youth and their families in a transitional Taiwan. I've never been so moved by a movie let alone an epic 4 hour running time one. Humorous and sad, an important film that has to be preserved and seen. I saw a great restored version of this gem. A very honest portrayal of a period of confusion. Thank you Edward Yang for sharing an experience. Yang and his people should be proud. My highest recommendation.
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