A Brighter Summer Day

1991 [CHINESE]

Action / Crime / Drama / Romance

Rotten Tomatoes Critics - Certified Fresh 100% · 24 reviews
Rotten Tomatoes Audience - Upright 94% · 1K ratings
IMDb Rating 8.2/10 10 11950 12K


Top cast

Chen Chang as Xiao Si'r
720p.BLU 1080p.BLU
2.12 GB
Chinese 2.0
23.976 fps
3 hr 56 min
P/S 1 / 23
3.94 GB
Chinese 2.0
23.976 fps
3 hr 56 min
P/S 5 / 42

Movie Reviews

Reviewed by jboothmillard 7 / 10

A Brighter Summer Day

This Taiwanese was one I found listed in the book 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die, I read that it was a bloody long film, but also it was rated highly by critics, I was prepared to try it, directed by Edward Yang (A One and a Two (Yi Yi)). Based on a true story, one that shook the nation, it is set in the early 1960s, taking place over four years in Taiwan. It centre around the gradual, unyielding fall of a young boy, Xiao Si'r (Chen Chang), going from innocent teenager to juvenile delinquent. The film is primarily about the conflict between two youth gangs, the gang leader and girlfriend are involved in the conflict between gangs of children of formerly-mainland families and those of Taiwanese families, it conflict culminates in an act of violence, where the girlfriend is murdered. Also starring Lisa Yang as Ming, Kuo-Chu Chang as the Father, Elaine Jin as the Mother, Chuan Wang as the Eldest Sister, Han Chang as the Elder Brother, Hsiu-Chiung Chiang as the Middle Sister and Stephanie Lai as the Youngest Sister. I don't think it is just me that would struggle to remember everything that happens in the film, it is almost exactly 4 hours long, it is mainly about youth and social issues of the time, with some rock and roll, and political turmoil in the backdrop, the gang war stuff is less interesting, it has some interesting moments, it is certainly not the sort of thing I watch more than once, unless it was shorter, but I do remember liking this drama. Very good!

Reviewed by Quinoa1984 9 / 10

a full-course meal of a film, and a very good one

A Brighter Summer Day was for some time one of those titles that I was maybe vaguely aware of in my 20s but only grew to understand was considered in the Super Advanced Level of Film Buffery (or do I call it the Cineastistas? Who knows) a major landmark film, and a film that is about so much in four hours while being mostly about the lives of normal people trying to live - and uh, you know, would-be or actual teen gangs - between 1959 and 1961 in Taipei in Taiwan.

I've eeen Yi Yi and loved it, so this didn't seem like much of a stretch to take in next. Finally watching it, Id say it is... Good. Really good. There are times it's splendid and even mesmerizing in how Yang elevates the everyday and understated into something close to poetry. And the final twenty to thirty minutes, when it's leading up to and that big incident occurs, it almost feels as though it *should* be greater than it is.

Here's why I think I find myself somewhat at a remove from it, at least on a first go-around: Yang shoots much of this, or at least 40% or so of it, at a remove with characters often far away in the shots or at the least Id wager with long lenses, and while he does also in that other 60% go in tighter on people (for example that interrogation with the Father in the second half), he also is a fan of shrouding characters in darkness in certain major set pieces (ie the gangfights/brawls, one of which with a particularly important weapon), and sometimes that point does work to be evocative of this mysterious connection or lack thereof between teens of opposite sexes (there's a lovely scene of a conversation where the boy and girl are in silhouette and she is walking back and forth on a beam, and it's as though her voice is coming from everywhere). He shoots plainly, simply, often in long takes, sometimes deliberately with a character talking to another off screen.

In other words, this movie is entertaining... But it's also, for lack of a better word, work. This isn't to take away from anyone who immediately connects to this dedicatedly stripped down approach to storytelling. And this approach pays off in particular in the second half (you know, two hours of this four hour epic) as the lives of this family and this boy Si'r are becoming more ensconced in drama they can or cannot control, and when deep wells of emotion do bubble up and roil over.

And most of all what makes much of this so different and (in a good way) unique among epic films of this length and scope is that the main character isnt, until near the end, some dark or brooding character, but a good person who is trying to figure out who he is in relation to the world, that being among these teen roughs like Ma and Honey (the latter being maybe the most memorable character in the film), and he is going through a slow but sure coming of age in this city, and looking back (more intellectually than emotionally) I admire how Yang ties Si'r and his feelings of uncertainty and reticence and trying to be one thing and falling into the demise of his own self into Taiwan at the time itself. It's more when I read other reviews that bring this up, that the film on the whole is like a giant metaphor for the death of a nation in the shade of another one (all being exiles and immigrants from China due to... All what happened there and all), and this eventual crime being so inexplicable and yet maybe it could have or should have been seen coming?

I think that it isn't fair to call some of this dull, I know that. But there is a fine line to walk when having understated and naturalistic dramatic scene after understated and naturalistic dramatic scene, and it being *this* long. If it were even two and a half hours it might be in my estimation astonishing. On the other hand, I also have to admit taking the scissors to the movie as is would take some of the heart out of it (for example, the stuff with the Mom who has Asthma, does that need to be there? It does matter as part of the dramatic fabric of the family, so maybe?)

In a film like this, dramatic or just memorable set pieces really do help to break up the flow of things, and Yang is absolutely not a filmmaker all about that; he does get to them, at least by the time we get to concert scenes and those gang fights, but they aren't his primary focus. At the same time, there just.... Wasn't the level of pathos that clicked for me with the dynamics of these characters.

I fully admit that this could change one day if I have another full day to kick my feet up and dig in to this massive but subtle full course meal of cinema. I also always say I prefer a (in his/her element) filmmaker to do more than less. Do I even feel guilty about giving it four stars? I definitely found much to be taken with here, and Chen's performance is kind of incredible as a kid who is more like a lot of us watching: unsure, decent, and, if put into the wrong path, capable of doing bad things. It works as an empathetic story. It's just.... So much of it?

Reviewed by lasttimeisaw 9 / 10

Edward Young's chef-d'œuvre needs a BluRay rediscovery

A 228 minutes saga from the late Taiwanese director Edward Yang (Yi Yi 2000, 10/10; A CONFUCIAN'S CONFUSION 1994, 8/10), A BRIGHTER SUMMER DAY, whose literal translation of its original Chinese title is "The Murder Incident of the Boy on Guling Street", is based on a true event in the 1960s, a 14-year-old boy murdered his 13-year-old girlfriend, and became the first juvenile offender served in jail since millions of mainland Chinese retreated to Taiwan in 1949 after the civil war.

Xiao Si'r (Chen Chang in his film debut) is a high school boy, the fourth child (out of 5) in the family, his parents, played by Kuo-Chu Chang and Elaine Jin, are the first generation of immigrants from mainland China. Significantly introduced by the inter-titles at the beginning, for those who are oblivious of the political context, it is a generation of uncertainty and insecurity, they oscillate between kicking off their new life in an unfamiliar island (e.g. the Japanese house they live in) and wallowing in their past homeland, therefore, as their children, the future is more up in the air, the only viable way is to gang up and act out their adolescent hormone and hot-blooded rebellion by trite brawls, loafing around and merrymaking.

The film is an onerous undertaking for the Taiwan cinema (not only at that time), it encompasses more than one hundred amateur actors with multifarious locations, the epic of its narrative progression is patiently and elegantly drawn out by Yang's dispassionate camera angle (sometimes tilted) and long takes, the flux of emotions is gradual but ample, one memorable example is the killing spree in the pitch-black during the outage, overtly pays the homage of Bushido's code of vengeance, the cruelty of survival stands out markedly.

Before Xiao Si'r meets Ming (Lisa Yang, her one-and-only screen role to date), he is a top student in the class, irrelevant to any gangster behaviors, afterward he falls in love with her in the most implicit and Asian fashion, but she has a boyfriend Honey (Hongming Lin), who is the leader of the Little Park gang. When Xiao Si'r finally meets Honey, there is no hard feeling, Honey's idealistic lonely-hero ambition magnetizes him, and after Honey's death, he follows his suit to be the guardian angel of Ming and involuntarily is involved in the payback carnage.

Ming is the most complicated character in the film, firstly we watch her go back to a big house, presumably think she is from a well-heeled family, then we realize she lives with her single mother, who is the maid of the house, and soon is laid off because of her aggravated illness. Ming is much more mature and worldly than her age, and her innocuous looks can easily deceive audience and the infatuated Xiao Si'r. During the pivotal stabbing sequences, she determinedly hollers "the world will not change for you!", it sharply counters Xiao Si'r's indoctrinated belief "my destiny is in my own hands", two worlds collide, and casualty ensues. Here comes the act of passion and its grim consequences. It is a cri-de-cœur from a disillusioned youth, to the adult promiscuity, to the ubiquitous bureaucracy, to the unjust world!

Yang presents an ultra-rich fodder among numerous supporting characters, each one brings about a certain empathy in the societal furnace, Xiao Si'r's family in particular, five children are all imbued with their distinct dispositions and the tenable relationships among siblings are by turns heart-melting and heartily-understanding. Their father undergoes a sea change when being excruciatingly investigated by the national security officials, Kuo-Chu Chang and Elaine Jin are professional thespians among the large cast, both are strikingly captivating without any incongruous histrionics with the rest first-time youngsters.

A BRIGHTER SUMMER DAY is one of the most important contemporary masterpiece of Taiwan cinema, and should be recommended to cinephiles from all over the world with Yang's other legacies, I can write a lengthy essay parsing every single role and contextualizing their incisive bonds under that particular societal backdrop, but first of all, it is in urgent need of BluRay restoration, the DVD version I watched is way too inferior.

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