Edward Yang won a long overdue Best Director prize in Cannes for this funny, deeply touching and altogether masterly account of a family in present-day Taipei. It all happens at once for NJ Jiain (played by Wu Nianzhen, one of Taiwan’s best writer-directors), partner in a failing computer firm: his mother-in-law goes into a coma on the day his brother-in-law marries, while NJ himself meets his long-lost first love at the wedding reception and starts wondering if his life could have been different. Before long, NJ’s wife has gone off to follow a religious guru, their young son has got into trouble at school and their teenage daughter is getting her first lessons in the joys and pitfalls of dating. Directed with a formal precision which never masks the warmth of its feeling for the characters, the film suggests that the ways we deal with our problems change very little over the years, even if the problems themselves do change. Yang marshalls a dozen major characters and nearly as many strands of storyline (including an interlude in Japan)with apparently effortless clarity, producing a wise and worldly vision of the ways we all live now.
Yang’s ambitions for A One and a Two have been exceeded at every screening to date. Audiences tend to regard it as one of the year’s best films because it strikes them as a masterly piece of film-making and as a humane account of
the ways we deal with our problems. Tony Rayns. (Taiwan/ Japan, 2000. English subtitles. Colour. Dolby digital stereo. 173 mins.)
Edward Yang is the subject of a retrospective in this programme