A Brighter Summer Day


3h 5m 1991
A Brighter Summer Day

Brief Synopsis

Love draws a Taiwanese youth into the world of street gangs and violence.

Film Details

Also Known As
Brighter Summer Day
Genre
Drama
Foreign
Release Date
1991
Distribution Company
Institute Of Contemporary Arts (ICA); Mk2 International

Technical Specs

Duration
3h 5m

Synopsis

Set in Taiwan during the year 1960, a talented but self-centered student refuses to compromise his moral standards with anyone -- teachers, friends, parents or girlfriend.

Film Details

Also Known As
Brighter Summer Day
Genre
Drama
Foreign
Release Date
1991
Distribution Company
Institute Of Contemporary Arts (ICA); Mk2 International

Technical Specs

Duration
3h 5m

Articles

A Brighter Summer Day


Inspired by a real-life 1961 incident in which a 14-year-old Taiwanese boy murdered his girlfriend in a public park, this ambitious epic is often cited as one of the supreme achievements of director Edward Yang, a Shanghai-born filmmaker (born as Te-Chang Yang) whose family moved to Taiwan when he was a small child. Yang's cinema career started late at the age of 34 after an unpleasant film school experience at USC, after which he worked in Seattle's computer industry for seven years. Upon returning to Taiwan, he took up the offer to write a TV feature. From 1982 to 2000 he made only eight features, spending a great deal of time on each one with his final film, Yi Yi, turning out to be his most internationally acclaimed.

The title of A Brighter Summer Day is paraphrased from a lyric in Elvis Presley's "Are You Lonesome Tonight," a pivotal song representing the generational shift in Taiwan in the early 1960s where teenagers are far more enraptured with Western popular culture than the propaganda media being generated from China. The story here is set in the period when the Nationalist Chinese government has completed its settlement of Taiwan, and adolescent Xiao Si'r is one of the new wave of exiles with no memory connection to mainland life. The strict morals imposed by his parents contrast with the gang lives of Xiao Si'r's friends in the Little Park gang, who regularly clash with the rival Village 217 gang.

A sprawling work in every respect, this film was initially released with a running time of just over three hours and then reissued as a director's cut clocking in at over four hours. In total it features over 100 speaking parts, though the star is undoubtedly the actor playing Xiao Si'r, Zhang Zhen, who would go on to be credited as Chang Chen in a string of acclaimed films including Happy Together (1997), Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000), and the John Woo Red Cliff saga from 2008). In addition to the multitude of actors, the film is also loaded with pop culture references from both the East and West including many cinematic nods to Hollywood staples like Citizen Kane, Rebel without a Cause, and Rio Lobo.

When the film was shown on the international festival circuit in 1991, Yang issued a statement about the film's view of cultural suppression: "It is horrifying to think that Man might have deprived its own species of the truth for hundreds of years. Luckily, there are enough clues left... to reconstruct the truth and restore our faith in humanity." He also acknowledged the heavily autobiographical nature of the work, recalling that "we kids had a lot of time on our hands. You got tired of listening to propaganda music, so rock 'n' roll stations were the ones you'd tune into. There was very little locally produced popular culture because everyone was too worried about finding the next meal. We were brought up in a Confucian atmosphere. We'd see Elvis movies and think, they that's cool, that's the sort of thing we don't speak to our parents about. My mum saw the film last year in Tokyo and she said, 'Jeez, I never knew about that.' My parents had the right to know what really happened. I had to bridge the gap between generations."

The film was highly praised by both viewers and critics at the time, with Hollywood Reporter dubbing it "remarkable" as "the movie achieves an empathetic and poignant depiction of troubled youth that evokes justifiable comparisons with similarly themed work by Nicholas Ray and Fran├žois Truffaut." However, it received little play in the United States outside of a handful of repertory screenings, most likely due to the daunting running time. Today it still remains a relevant and gripping portrait of a society in transition, speaking with a voice as urgent today as when it was made.

By Nathaniel Thompson
A Brighter Summer Day

A Brighter Summer Day

Inspired by a real-life 1961 incident in which a 14-year-old Taiwanese boy murdered his girlfriend in a public park, this ambitious epic is often cited as one of the supreme achievements of director Edward Yang, a Shanghai-born filmmaker (born as Te-Chang Yang) whose family moved to Taiwan when he was a small child. Yang's cinema career started late at the age of 34 after an unpleasant film school experience at USC, after which he worked in Seattle's computer industry for seven years. Upon returning to Taiwan, he took up the offer to write a TV feature. From 1982 to 2000 he made only eight features, spending a great deal of time on each one with his final film, Yi Yi, turning out to be his most internationally acclaimed. The title of A Brighter Summer Day is paraphrased from a lyric in Elvis Presley's "Are You Lonesome Tonight," a pivotal song representing the generational shift in Taiwan in the early 1960s where teenagers are far more enraptured with Western popular culture than the propaganda media being generated from China. The story here is set in the period when the Nationalist Chinese government has completed its settlement of Taiwan, and adolescent Xiao Si'r is one of the new wave of exiles with no memory connection to mainland life. The strict morals imposed by his parents contrast with the gang lives of Xiao Si'r's friends in the Little Park gang, who regularly clash with the rival Village 217 gang. A sprawling work in every respect, this film was initially released with a running time of just over three hours and then reissued as a director's cut clocking in at over four hours. In total it features over 100 speaking parts, though the star is undoubtedly the actor playing Xiao Si'r, Zhang Zhen, who would go on to be credited as Chang Chen in a string of acclaimed films including Happy Together (1997), Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000), and the John Woo Red Cliff saga from 2008). In addition to the multitude of actors, the film is also loaded with pop culture references from both the East and West including many cinematic nods to Hollywood staples like Citizen Kane, Rebel without a Cause, and Rio Lobo. When the film was shown on the international festival circuit in 1991, Yang issued a statement about the film's view of cultural suppression: "It is horrifying to think that Man might have deprived its own species of the truth for hundreds of years. Luckily, there are enough clues left... to reconstruct the truth and restore our faith in humanity." He also acknowledged the heavily autobiographical nature of the work, recalling that "we kids had a lot of time on our hands. You got tired of listening to propaganda music, so rock 'n' roll stations were the ones you'd tune into. There was very little locally produced popular culture because everyone was too worried about finding the next meal. We were brought up in a Confucian atmosphere. We'd see Elvis movies and think, they that's cool, that's the sort of thing we don't speak to our parents about. My mum saw the film last year in Tokyo and she said, 'Jeez, I never knew about that.' My parents had the right to know what really happened. I had to bridge the gap between generations." The film was highly praised by both viewers and critics at the time, with Hollywood Reporter dubbing it "remarkable" as "the movie achieves an empathetic and poignant depiction of troubled youth that evokes justifiable comparisons with similarly themed work by Nicholas Ray and Fran├žois Truffaut." However, it received little play in the United States outside of a handful of repertory screenings, most likely due to the daunting running time. Today it still remains a relevant and gripping portrait of a society in transition, speaking with a voice as urgent today as when it was made. By Nathaniel Thompson

Quotes

Trivia

Miscellaneous Notes

Released in United States 1991

Released in United States 1992

Released in United States August 1991

Released in United States February 1992

Released in United States January 1992

Released in United States October 2007

Released in United States September 1991

Released in United States September 1993

Shown at Berlin Film Festival (International Forum) February 13-24, 1992.

Shown at Locarno International Film Festival August 7-16, 1991.

Shown at Palm Springs International Film Festival January 8-15, 1992.

Shown at Pusan International Film Festival (Special Program - Edward Yang: The Memory of Taipei) October 4-12, 2007.

Shown at San Francisco International Film Festival April 23-May 7, 1992.

Shown at Tokyo International Film Festival September 27 - October 6, 1991.

Shown at Toronto Festival of Festivals September 5-14, 1991.

Released in United States 1992 (Shown at AFI/Los Angeles International Film Festival (Asian Cinema) June 18 - July 2, 1992.)

Film is part of the Japanese consortium Media International Corporation's (MICO) Asia Films Project.

Jane Balfour Films will handle sales in Europe, Australia and New Zealand.

Released in United States 1991 (Shown at Tokyo International Film Festival September 27 - October 6, 1991.)

Released in United States 1992 (Shown at San Francisco International Film Festival April 23-May 7, 1992.)

Released in United States January 1992 (Shown at Palm Springs International Film Festival January 8-15, 1992.)

Released in United States February 1992 (Shown at Berlin Film Festival (International Forum) February 13-24, 1992.)

Released in United States August 1991 (Shown at Locarno International Film Festival August 7-16, 1991.)

Released in United States September 1991 (Shown at Toronto Festival of Festivals September 5-14, 1991.)

Released in United States September 1993 (Shown in New York City (Walter Reade) as part of program "Made In Taiwan: Ten Years of an Emerging Cinema" September 9-25, 1993.)

Released in United States October 2007 (Shown at Pusan International Film Festival (Special Program - Edward Yang: The Memory of Taipei) October 4-12, 2007.)