Yi Yi (A One and a Two•)
Directed by Edward Yang
Starring Wu Nienjen, Elaine Jin, Kelly Lee, Jonathan Chang
Ever wonder what people talk about in restaurants after 20 years of marriage? Well, they cover more ground than this introspective Chinese marathon. Oh, sure, cute as a bug eight-year-old Yang Yang (Chang) can take arty photos of the back of people’s heads. And teen age Ting Ting’s (Lee’s) just broken up with best friend LiLi’s boyfriend, and Min Min (Jin) (Ting Ting and Yang Yang’s Mom) takes a few weeks off to study Oriental spiritualism when granny falls down and goes into a coma. It’s a mercy coma, but she’s not alone — the audience is zonked out with her. Something almost but not quite happens to NJ (Wu), Min Min’s husband. He runs into his childhood sweetheart Sherry and almost cheats while on a business trip. They check into at least four different hotels, taking separate rooms each time. I know Chinese can be a bit shy when it comes to sex, but this is ridiculous. Well, at some point, Grandma dies and NJ’s business gets a little bit better and his brother in law A-Di pays back the money he owes, and thank your ancestors, the credits roll. In other words, three hours of normal life, but you paid to sit though it.
Are there any redeeming features? There has to be. With as much film stock as Yang went through, it would be almost impossible to not get one or two shots worth noting. When Ting Ting fantasizes grandma had woken, there’s a beautiful scene when granny stokes Ting’s hair. Too bad her head is off screen. And Yang Yang reads a touching poem at the funeral. And you get a good look at the gritty Taiwanese yuppie lifestyle; cell phones and horoscopes, private schools and public humiliation, all lived out in a luxury high rise surrounded by busy highways. Oh, yeah, one last thing — three hours of the best damn Foley work I ever heard. I was never so glad to see the Enzian waitress come and take my money — she said, “You’ve only got another half hour to go.”