At long last, A BRIGHTER SUMMER DAY, by the late, great Edward Yang, is here
The Criterion Collection has struck again. On January 17, the premiere United States boutique film label announced its March 2016 releases. Per usual, the lineup features a number of iconic rereleases and obscurities.
But the crown jewel of the slate is one of the most sought-after of all Asian films: Taiwanese auteur Edward Yang’s 1991, four-hour opus A BRIGHTER SUMMER DAY, never before released on American home video. After twenty-five years, A BRIGHTER SUMMER DAY is coming to United States viewers on DVD and Blu-Ray.
A BRIGHTER SUMMER DAY follows the story of teenagers in early-’60s Taipei, as culture conflict brews between Taiwanese-born teens and those from the mainland, culminating in tragedy. From the time of its release, and in the years since, DAY has won rapturous praise both at home and abroad. It took home Best Film at the Golden Horse Film Festival and Asia Pacific Film Festival. At the Tokyo International Film Festival, it was awarded a Special Jury Prize.
In America, A BRIGHTER SUMMER DAY’s reputation has only grown richer over time, despite its unavailability on home video. The New York Times‘ A.O. Scott called it “a work of absolute mastery.” The famed critic For esteemed critic Jonathan Rosenbaum, A BRIGHTER SUMMER DAY is superior to YI YI. Film writer Saul Austerlitz calls the 1991 film Yang’s “first genuine masterpiece.”
Since first seeing YI YI years ago (that rare kind of cinematic experience that rattled my entire cinematic consciousness with a collection of fleeting moments, images, exchanges, and gestures, rendered whole by an artist’s precision), A BRIGHTER SUMMER DAY has sat atop my list of must-see Asian films. Yet for all of DAY’s lofty praise worldwide, it seemed for a long time that the film might only ever be viewable in the occasional theatrical viewing. For all of the late Yang’s American praise, his films, outside of YI YI, have struggled to find home distribution in the states.
But in 2009, thanks to Martin Scorsese and the World Cinema Foundation (which also helped resurrect another benchmark of Asian films, 1961’s THE HOUSEMAID), A BRIGHTER SUMMER DAY received a fresh new print.
Now, at last, the film’s time has come. Hopefully, A BRIGHTER SUMMER DAY’s Criterion release will spread greater awareness about the late master Yang, who tragically passed away in 2007, at the age of 59. Hopefully, his works, like TAIPEI STORY, TERRORIZERS, and A CONFUCIAN CONFUSION, will eventually find their place in the American market.
Until then, A BRIGHTER SUMMER DAY, perhaps more than any Asian films coming out next year, theatrically or otherwise, is the landmark release of 2016 for cinephile everywhere.