Archive for September 8th, 2015

by Aaron West

yi yi - child photo

The term “family epic” is not often used to describe a film, not even an art film (at least not post-Ozu). There are plenty of lengthy films about families, but few that are grandiose to share a descriptor with the likes of Lawrence of Arabia. Yi Yi is indeed a family epic film. This is not just because it has a three-hour running time, but rather because it successfully captures the scale of a multi-generation family. Instead of telling a lengthy narrative through the generations, it reveals enough about the characters in the present, by exploring them through a single, binding experience, that it is just as effective.

I chose Yi Yi as my top film for the Wonders of the Dark Childhood and Adolescence poll. This choice may seem peculiar because the film features so many characters from the family, most of whom are adults, that the children are not given the most screen time. In fact, if you were to pick a protagonist, it would probably be NJ, the father figure. However, the children’s experiences mirror and elucidate the actions of the adults, and they flesh out the characters. The children, through their innocence and naivety, also interpreted the events with a perspective that the adults are incapable of, and sometimes their silly inquiries are prescient.

Yang-Yang asks his father, “Daddy, can we only know half the truth? I can only see what’s in front and not what’s behind.” This may seem like a simple, naive question, but it speaks to how humans tend to only look forwards and not backwards. The adults in the film are reticent to look backward, yet the children experience things that the adults have also experienced. In other words that Yang-Yang might understand, if the adults could see what is in front of the children, they might see what is behind their own view. (more…)

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Screen cap from uncompromising, superbly made “Diary of a Teenage Girl”

by Sam Juliano

Yes, September is here and plenty of cherished seasonal openings are upon us, but somebody needs to tell Mother Nature to turn down the heat.  90 degree days are still in force, and there isn’t any sign that things will soon change.  In any case, football fans can rejoice in the beginning of a new season later this week, and movie buffs can expect some very good things later this month.  The New York Film Festival will be launching soon, as will new seasons at the Metropolitan Opera and the New York Philharmonic.

Here at Wonders in the Dark, the Greatest Childhood/Adolescent Countdown is now in the 20’s, with the end clearly in site.  We enjoyed one of the best weeks ever as far as comments and page views are concerned, and I want to thank all for their much appreciated participation.  Some of the greatest films ever made in this sub-genre are upcoming, so stay tuned!

The past week has been quite busy, nearly as hectic as the previous one, and in large measure connected to the academic endeavors of our children.  Lucille and I managed to see two films in theaters, though several at home viewings were the main order of cinematic business.  I am presently reading Ron Chernow’s Pulitzer-prize winning biography Washington: A Life.   (more…)

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