Monday, March 1, 2010
There’s absolutely nothing about “Yi Yi” that’s special or unique. It is a blandly simple story of commonplace people, living out their lives of quiet desperation in everyday settings. And yet it is a film you will never forget.
This anti-“Avatar” of a film eschews the spectacular in favor of the hum-drum zeitgeist of the generic; artificially-flavored vanilla instead of Death by Chocolate. And yet we are absorbed, indeed, overcome by its elegance and accuracy. Here we meet a perfectly commonplace family, and through the course of the three-hour film, become intimately involved in their hopes, dreams and deepest, darkest anxieties and, by the end, our souls feel utterly spent and wrung-out.
As an audience, we identify completely with every character’s thought, whim and gesture. We almost seem to know every line of dialogue before it’s even spoken. Every apartment, restaurant, hotel or office building depicted in this film seems like a place we have been before; either in our waking lives or someplace we’ve experienced in the faint shadows of our dreams.
We see a nurturing middle-class mom retreat into religious mysticism when crushing reality becomes too much for her to bear. We see a successful, level-headed executive’s failed attempt to recapture a lost romantic past. We see a sensitive, diligent teen-age girl forced to abandon her childhood when adults fail her, and we see an imaginative little boy of superior ability reach out to the world in the only way he can.
We feel as though we are inside the skin of all these characters. We are seeing our own lost hopes, squandered opportunities and petty, but nightmarish terrors . And yet we keep watching, aware that this outsized movie must end sometime, and yet wishing that it would go on forever and never, ever end.
This film is simply life itself, with all its ecstatic joys and bitter disappointments. Director Edward Yang robbed our souls, thoughts and aspirations and put them in a movie. Thank God.
The Sublime Thoughts of Bunched Undies