A Short Ode to a Rare Masterpiece

Almost a year ago, my friend Stephen, who is an obsessive film collector and cinema lover, showed me a film he bought off the internet a while back. He didn’t love it, but thought it would be the sort of thing I’d like. It was four hours long, and I watched it over the course of one hot Sunday night. I remember the night clearly, but the film has started to fade in my memory. It was by a talented Taiwanese director who died at a young age a few years after completing his masterpiece Yi Yi in 2001. The director was Edward Yang. The film was A Brighter Summer Day (1991).

A beautiful epic of Asian cinema, and one film which is undeservingly difficult to find, I didn’t appreciate it at first, but after a while of mulling it over, I began to really like it. However, a few months later, my friend sold the DVD online and it was gone. Odds are, it’ll be a while before I see it again, if I ever get the opportunity to at all. Despite this, I feel incredibly grateful and privileged to see such a rare film. I pray that one day Criterion will release it like they did Yi Yi, but I have no high hopes for that. Not only does it have one of my favourite film titles, it’s now become one of my favourite films of Asian cinema.

Anyway, I’m here to ask if any of you have seen it, and if so, what you thought of it. If you haven’t seen it and would like to learn more about it, it is included among the well-known 1001 Movies You Must See Before I Die.

ALSO, for those who haven’t seen it and feel like they’ve wasted their time here, let me know in the comments some of your favourite very rare movies, or perhaps a movie you’ve seen once a while ago and would really like to see again; even better if it’s a rare one that’s hard to find. Thanks!

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Posted on November 27, 2011, in Movies and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 12 Comments.

  1. Waterloo Bridge. It’s a 1940 romantic drama starring my favourite actress Vivien Leigh, that I watched on YouTube a while back. I haven’t been able to find it anywhere else though, which is such a shame because it’s a brilliant movie…one of my all time favourites. There are some movies which I suppose are quite ‘popular’, but I’m having so much trouble finding them in NZ: The Virgin Suicides, Sunrise and Quiz Show. I guess I’m going to have to make a wishlist on Amazon!

    • Ooh, sounds cool! Will definitely look into that one.

      Hmm… you can’t find QUIZ SHOW? I own a Region 4 DVD that I bought from Whitcoulls. But I can imagine that the other two are hard to find. What about Mighty Ape or Fishpond? They’re pretty good with buying DVDs online in NZ.

      • I can’t find Quiz Show in any shops. Not even JB Hi-Fi, and they have a rather large selection. It could be on TradeMe, though. And I’ve tried Mighty Ape and Fishpond, but no dice 😦

        • Bugger! You may have to get it from Amazon, then. I mean if you’re really passionate about it. I don’t love the film nearly as much as you do.

  2. The Hill(1965). I have never heard of anyone else even mentioning this. But, I have said everything I wanted to say here. http://umeandfilms.blogspot.com/2011/09/hill.html

  3. I got the opportunity to see this a few years back on Google video. Not my fav, but it’s a great companion piece to City Of Sadness.

    The first two films in the Donskoy’s Gorky trilogy and the Japanese film The Naked Island are my picks for rare and good. I say the first two because I haven’t found the third.

    • I might have to watch it on Google Video.

      Those films sound interesting. Thanks for recommending them!

    • I didn’t even think to check when I posted that comment. It’s still on Google Video!

      There is another that jumps to mind. Turner Classic Movies played it a few years back during a festival on Asian-Americans in Hollywood. It’s called Walk Like A Dragon (1960). It has Jack Lord and James Shigeta. What makes it stick in my mind is Mel Tormé as a gun fighting deacon who isn’t above dealing out justice from the barrel of his pistol. That part is so bizarre that this film always floats to the top of my mind.

      My last ones are three by Brazilian filmmaker Glauber Rocha: “Black God, White Devil”, “Terra Em Transe”, and “Antonio Das Mortes”. I would love to watch them again, but haven’t had enough of an itch to go and buy them.

  4. This is a film I’ve heard good things about but I’ve yet to catch up with. I have seen Yi Yi, it’s a film I plan to revisit in the near future.

    This film may not be rare depending on where you are, but I really like Dennis Hopper’s Out of the Blue, a film he made in the ’80s which I think is a response to the hippy culture he became identified with.

    • It’s apparently incredibly rare and difficult to find. YI YI was released by Criterion, so that’s easy to find, but you’ll have a lot of trouble with Yang’s other films. The man is an amazing, one-of-a-kind director.

      OUT OF THE BLUE sounds interesting. I didn’t think much of Hopper during the early 80s period, but some decent work is there.

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