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Karen Ray

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Edward Yang is often cited, along with Hou Hsiao-hsien, as one of the central figures of New Taiwan Cinema. Born in Shanghai, he moved with his family at the age of two to Taiwan. After studying engineering in Taiwan, he received an advanced degree in computer science in Florida, before entering USC's film school in 1974. Yang left before graduating, but never gave up the idea of making films, even after taking a computer job in Seattle. In 1980, when a friend from USC asked him to write a screenplay for "The Winter of 1905," he went to Japan for the shoot, then returned to Taiwan in 1981, an opportune time for a budding filmmaker. Almost immediately, he directed "Duckweed" (1981), an episode from the groundbreaking TV series "11 Women." The following year, he was one of four young filmmakers to participate in "In Our Time" (1983), the film which inaugurated the new cinema. It introduced important new directors and represented what Yang considered the first attempt to recover the Taiwanese past, to "open up questions about our origins, our politics, our relationship to Mainland China."Yang's first full-fledged feature film was "That Day on the Beach" (1983), a dark, brooding look at the relationship...

Edward Yang is often cited, along with Hou Hsiao-hsien, as one of the central figures of New Taiwan Cinema. Born in Shanghai, he moved with his family at the age of two to Taiwan. After studying engineering in Taiwan, he received an advanced degree in computer science in Florida, before entering USC's film school in 1974. Yang left before graduating, but never gave up the idea of making films, even after taking a computer job in Seattle. In 1980, when a friend from USC asked him to write a screenplay for "The Winter of 1905," he went to Japan for the shoot, then returned to Taiwan in 1981, an opportune time for a budding filmmaker. Almost immediately, he directed "Duckweed" (1981), an episode from the groundbreaking TV series "11 Women." The following year, he was one of four young filmmakers to participate in "In Our Time" (1983), the film which inaugurated the new cinema. It introduced important new directors and represented what Yang considered the first attempt to recover the Taiwanese past, to "open up questions about our origins, our politics, our relationship to Mainland China."

Yang's first full-fledged feature film was "That Day on the Beach" (1983), a dark, brooding look at the relationship between two women. Their conversation at a bar frames an elaborate structure of flashbacks (and flashbacks within flashbacks) which probe their shared childhood and the choices that led one to a music career and the other to a more traditional role. Visually stunning and structurally complex, "That Day on the Beach" treats a number of issues which Yang would return to in subsequent films.

"Taipei Story" (1985) brought Yang--and Taiwanese cinema--world-wide attention. As in his previous films, the focus is primarily on urban women and their ability to adapt better than men to a society in flux. The new cinema's tendency towards literary adaptation forms a reflexive subtext for Yang's third feature, "The Terrorizers" (1986). A woman author is one of a number of characters around which Yang spins a fabric of intertwining narratives. The relationships among their stories develop slowly; some don't connect until near the end. The film's main concern is with the interconnectedness of modern life and how even random actions reverberate throughout society.

Yang's visual and narrative style is among the most distinctive and spectacular in recent Chinese film. His films are quiet, slow, and use a minimum of dialogue. Western critics often invoke Antonioni, although Yang appears to resent the comparison. In Taiwan, where "different" is read as "foreign," his departure from the norms of classical style are considered a symptom of Western influence. The director, however, attributes his stark style to Chinese origins, particularly his early education in Chinese brush painting. In any case, Yang's films are passionately connected to place, as he consistently addresses the problems posed by modern Taiwanese life.

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