Features and Columns · Movies

Edward Yang’s ‘Yi Yi’ and the Cinematic Poetry of Liminal Space

“Why are we afraid of the first time? Every day in life is a first time.”
Edward Yang Yi Yi
The Criterion Collection
By  · Published on August 27th, 2021

Welcome to The Queue — your daily distraction of curated video content sourced from across the web. Today, we’re watching a video essay on the importance of Edward Yang’s Yi Yi.

Three-hour runtimes are typically reserved for epics. Large-scale tales like Gone With the Wind, Barry Lyndon, Lawerence of Arabia, and Ben-Hur. And yet, there goes Yi Yi (2000), the extraordinary, intimate familial portrait by the late Taiwanese master Edward Yang.

The film follows a middle-class family in Taipei over the course of one year. It opens and closes on two significant life events: a wedding and a funeral. But, despite these important domestic bookends, Yang is far more concerned with the moments in between benchmarks: the turning points, the crossroads, and the non-spaces that are meaningful and resonant despite their apparent lack of significance.

The Financial Times critic Nigel Andrews once wrote that calling Yi Yi a three-hour Taiwanese family drama would be like calling Citizen Kane a film about a newspaper. In truth, Yi Yi is an epic tale of immeasurable depth masquerading under more humble pretenses. It’s a weighty reflection on transition and liminality, poetically released in the year 2000, at the bridge between one millennium and the next.

As the video essay below unpacks in more detail, Yi Yi finds beauty, resonance, and humanity in waiting rooms and transitory moments. And it is with crystalline compassion that Yang underlines that the majority of our lives are not thrilling plot points in some grand epic, but rather a journey from one notable moment to the next.

Watch “The Canon: Yi Yi”:

Who made this?

This video on the cinematic importance of Yi Yi was created by Luiza Liz Bond, a.k.a. Art Regard, a UK-based video essayist and a co-creator of The Cinema Cartography with Lewis Michael Bond. Her videos investigate the intersections of film and philosophy. You can check out The Cinema Cartography’s website here. You can check out their back catalog of videos here.

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Meg Shields is the humble farm boy of your dreams and a senior contributor at Film School Rejects. She currently runs three columns at FSR: The Queue, How'd They Do That?, and Horrorscope. She is also a curator for One Perfect Shot and a freelance writer for hire. Meg can be found screaming about John Boorman's 'Excalibur' on Twitter here: @TheWorstNun. (She/Her).