A Brighter Summer Day

1991 [CHINESE]

Action / Crime / Drama / Romance

Rotten Tomatoes Critics - Certified Fresh 100% · 26 reviews
Rotten Tomatoes Audience - Upright 94% · 1K ratings
IMDb Rating 8.2/10 10 13000 13K


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
Seeds 21
3.94 GB
Chinese 2.0
23.976 fps
3 hr 56 min
Seeds 35

Movie Reviews

Reviewed by Abyss47 8 / 10

Welcome to hell on earth.

This bleak Taiwanese epic based on a true story exposes the dark side of growing up in a harsh environment at a young age. I know what you're thinking, "Wow, so original." But, even though it's far from being the first film of its kind, let alone the best, it manages to stay unpredictable throughout and packs plenty of surprises; think of the grand sweep of The Godfather flicks and that's similar to what you get here. Visually, it doesn't really stand out in any significant way - at least from the print I saw. Instead, going for a more down-to-earth, gritty approach, which I liked because it suited the material. With that said, Director Edward Yang makes great use of long shots and keeps things very subtle, and I honestly can't think of a single bad or out-of-place angle in the film. The cast consisting almost entirely of nonprofessionals is very natural in their roles, even eerily believable at times when the film reaches disturbing moments - and there's a lot of those. It's a no-holds barred film that refuses to compromise itself for the sake of making the viewer feel safe or comfortable.

As a coming-of-age film, it's one of the very best. As a tragic romance, it delivers due to its Shakespearean quality. As a crime film, it can stand toe-to-toe with some of the very best of them. Even more impressive is that the film is able to cover so many important and (still) relevant issues and effectively explore the human condition without any heavy-handed morals or messages. The film is as straightforward and honest as they come, making it that much more engaging. And yet, despite all its qualities, it's not a film with universal appeal. Most would frown at its bleak approach and wonder where all the praise comes from. Others would skip it entirely due to it being a slow 4 hour film with no exploitative elements. Others would be wishing everyone were killed off and/or there was more action and pretentious imagery they could easily gravitate towards. Others.....well, I think you get the picture. Ultimately, those who would get the most out of this film are those who are willing to acknowledge that the world is a messed up place and some movies are going to reflect that. So, if you're easily offended, go back to watching "safe" Hollywood pictures, because you won't be able to appreciate this underrated gem. And yeah, that's me being a condescending prick. Sue me, what I say is true, and those who have seen the film know I'm right.

I'm going to go ahead and admit right off the bat that what I just wrote does not do justice to the film's level of substance and depth. This is merely a description. Others have gone far more in-depth into what makes the film so good than I'm capable of doing from a single viewing, so I recommend reading what they've wrote as well.

Reviewed by jandesimpson 9 / 10

A nation's identity crisis

Edward Yang's "A Brighter Summer Day" is an enormous film, not only in length but in its ambitious attempt, through homing in on a particular group of people in a specific time and place, to define the attitudes of a nation undergoing an identity crisis. The time is the early '60's, the place a suburb of Taipei, the characters mostly groups of adolescents. Like his great fellow compatriot Hou Xiaoxian, Yang hurls happenings at you without explaining who is who. He makes an enormous demand on his audience in forcing us to make all the connections. As his cast here runs into dozens and many scenes take place in semi-darkness, it is far from easy, particularly for a Western viewer to whom so many Orientals look alike, to make these connections on a first viewing. Indeed I would say that after four viewings I am still working out who is who. That I have not given up and am still in the process of unravelling can only be ascribed to a gut reaction from the first that this is a work of tremendous integrity and skill. The film deals mainly with gang warfare between rival groups of youngsters, which, it is suggested, reflects their search for identity at a time when their parents have lost theirs after years of Japanese occupation followed by the post-revolutionary separation from their Chinese mainland roots. As a diversion from gang warfare some of the youngsters find an outlet in American music, particularly the songs of Elvis. The film mainly follows the course of one boy, S'ir, as he moves from early to late adolescence. There are others who are presented as having a stronger sense of character; Ma, the "General's son" for instance who lives in a household a cut above the rest and Honey, a young man in a sailor suit, who exudes a sense of honesty and authority that holds the others in thrall. But it is S'ir whom the film doggedly follows, S'ir who seems to possess nothing much more than a bad temper and a developing desire, perhaps mainly through peer pressure, to have a young girl who will be faithful to him. It is his frustration in trying to achieve this that leads the film towards a climax that is as ugly as it is tragic. However, not before we have lived through a number of scenes that are wholly remarkable, none more so that a savage attack between rival gangs, some resorting to samurai swords - a reaction perhaps to their parents' detestation of all thing Japanese - which takes place in semi-darkness in a powercut during a tropical storm; the very stuff of late Goya, merciless and unblinking.

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?

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