Edward Yang was one of the leading lights of Taiwan’s New Wave of cinema. He was fascinated by themes of humanity in urban settings. His films master exploring the complex relationships between people, between the pulls of tradition and and modern, and between the conflicting demands of art and commerce.
Born in Shanghai, China, he grew up in Taipei, Taiwan. He was a huge Manga comics fan, and drew Japanese culture into his creating, beginning to screenwrite as a response to Manga.
He studied initially in Taiwan but later went to study in Florida USA to gain his masters. He enrolled at USC Film School in California but found their programme highly commercial and mainstream. Losing faith in filmmaking as a career he went to work in Seattle with microcomputers and defence software.
He became obsessed with classics of world cinema, particularly Werner Herzog and Edward’s idol, Italian Director Michelangelo Antonioni. Many critics have noted the influence of Antonioni in Yang’s later films.
Film Career in Taiwan
Still living and working in Seattle Yang wrote a script for Hong Kong TV movie The Winter of 1905, also gaining experience by working as a Production Assistant on the show. From that point on he began returning to Taiwan to direct television shows and establishing a name as a Director.
His big break came with his writing and directing the short Desires in 1982 which was part of the seminal new Wave collaboration In Our Time. That work launched him as a Director of note. His short was showcased alongside Yi Chang, I-Chen Ko, and Te-chen Chao and brought Yang recognition and acclaim.
His first feature film – That Day on the Beach – won a Best Cinematography award and was nominated for Best Feature Film, Best Director and Best Original Screenplay at the 1983 Golden Horse Film Festival and Awards in China. A reflection on couples and family life in the modern era of urban life in Taiwan.
A couple of years later he married Taiwanese pop legend Tsai Chin and the couple became prominent Asian celebrities. The marriage ended in 1995, and he subsequently married Kalli Peng 彭鎧立 , a pianist. They had a son Sean.
He followed That Day on the Beach with Taipei Story in 1984 and The Terroizer in 1986.
His first fully recognised masterpiece was the stunning A Brighter Summer Day in 1991, which portrayed teen gangs, and American pop-culture and the culture clashes between traditional culture and younger generations.
In 2000 his film Yi Yi (A One and Two) won him Best Director at Cannes. Yi Yi was also awarded ‘Best Film of the Decade’ in 2009 Village Voice Film Poll and came third in an award of the same title at IndieWire.
Yang had a long battle with colon cancer which he died from in 2007. That same year he was awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Golden Horse Film Festival and Awards.
Yang leaves a rich legacy of original and enlightening films that show glimpses of modernising Taiwan, and uncertainty about the future that capitalistic greed is creating in Asia and in art.
Edward Yang Filmography
2000 Yi Yi
1994 A Confucian Confusion
1992 Likely Consequence
1991 A Brighter Summer Day
1986 The Terrorizers
1985 Taipei Story
1983 That Day, on the Beach
1982 In Our Time
1982 Winter of 1905 (Writer)