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  Directed by
    None Listed
  Starring
  Specs
  • Widescreen 1.85:1
  • 16:9 Enhanced
  • Dual Layer (RSDL 97:37)
  Languages
  • Mandarin: Dolby Digital Stereo
  Subtitles
    English
  Extras
  • Teaser trailer - Satin Rouge, Samsara, The Tracker, Monsoon Wedding, The Safety of Objects
  • Theatrical trailer
  • Audio commentary
  • Photo gallery

Yi Yi (A One and a Two)

Madman Cinema/AV Channel . R4 . COLOR . 173 mins . M15+ . PAL

  Feature
Contract

Yi Yi. The English title reads A One and a Two. Strangely, “yi yi” actually means “significance”, something more in touch with the tone of the film but A One and a Two is somewhat catchier. Wow, that sounds almost... musical! So, let’s take a look at pacing.

As you may know, most popular music is written in 4/4, with four beats to every bar. Rock songs, dance tracks, teeny bopper shite – there’s at least one example from each. Live’s Lightning Crashes, BT’s Dreaming and Britney’s Baby One More Time. See, how easy was that? These tunes have a regular rhythm – a strong counting mechanism hurling them down the airwaves. But things can get one better...

Music in 3/4 – that’s right, three beats to every bar – a favourite of this reviewer. A waltz is a good example, and tracks such as Garbage’s Silence is Golden and Natalie Imbruglia’s That Day. These songs have a wicked pacing – literally throwing the pace of the song forward with a real driving force. These songs just flow really, really nicely.

Then you can get to all types of time signatures, 2/4, 7/8, 6/8, just to name a few. Songs written in 2/4 have a real zip to them, flowing forward like a running waterfall. So this film, Yi Yi, or A One and a Two sounds as if it should have this same speedy pacing. Well at 173 minutes, the pacing guidelines have been thrown out the window.

Critically acclaimed around the world, Yi Yi has scored numerable accolades both from audiences and critics alike, including 'Best Director' for Edward Yang. But this reviewer just couldn’t get into this film. This lack of respect for the editing process tends to drag the film out unnecessarily, plodding along rather than flowing. Yang’s script features a warm array of characters along the way, but at times you feel as though he has forgotten about a particular aspect of the story while he focuses strongly and independently on another. It’s as if the film is a strung-together piece of individual character portraits linked together by a family tie, yet not dealt with as a whole or completed by the conclusion. Something is just missing, and the three times this reviewer sat down to try to watch this film just exacerbates the indirect approach to the post-production efforts.

However, saying this, it is a highly acute and subtle film, based on the subtleties of life rather than the explicit details, which, admittedly, are conveyed nicely, however these nice moments do not make up for the rest of the film. The minimalistic form of the dialogue works well, however it does leave a lot of freedom to the audience for their own interpretations which can easily be skewed. Yi Yi really is an intelligent film, one which requires an active state of mind to try to get the most out of. Characters are believable in their own right, however do not sit well side-by-side, held together by an unbelievable invisible tie which never seems tight enough, and yet rather abstract too. What is advertised as being a spiritually rewarding and insightful piece of cinema was found to be lacking in that element that allowed this reviewer to let it all in.

This film is focused on the family of NJ Jian, his wife Min-Min, teenage daughter Ting-Ting and eight-year-old son Yang-Yang. The film opens with NJ’s brother-in-law’s wedding, and quickly dives into a heavy individual and personal drama with dilemmas in everyone’s lives, looking at a physical accident, love, loss, mid-life crisis, sexual awakening, old flames, infidelity and curiosity. Saying much more than this takes what little unexpected thrills this film has to offer away from it. Oh and a word of warning, don’t read the back cover because it kinda gives away the ending.

It’s funny, however tedious and disjointed this reviewer found the film to be, the ending was still enough to require a box of Kleenex, smartly placed on the coffee table right next to the couch.

  Video
Contract

Presented in an anamorphically enhanced widescreen aspect of 1.85:1, Yi Yi looks pretty good, yet does suffer from that dry Asian cinema look, seen in other films such as Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and some Jackie Chan movies. Colours are mastered from a rather drab and subtle colour palette which contrastingly holds bright, brilliant hues right alongside rather dull tones. Notably, the greens excel in this department, vivid and obscene, while reds follow a close second, with all colours open to some slight bleeding. Blacks and whites are two solid opposites, both neatly defined, with shadow detail adequate yet nothing particularly stunning. At times, however, the blacks can appear a little pale, suffering from a smidge of grey.

Grain and film artefacts are not a problem at all, with the image remarkably clean throughout. The clarity, on the other hand, isn’t always as pleasing, with a slightly fuzzy image making the picture a little soft to look at. Accompanying this lack of detail is a smidge of digital noise reduction and aliasing which both shimmer the backgrounds of the framing, which is at times a little disturbing. While we’re talking about oddities, a smidgeon of edge enhancement can sometimes be seen, but nothing really too stark. Subtitles appear in a bright yellow typeface which are nicely timed and well placed. Not being fluent in Mandarin, this reviewer was not able to check their accuracy. Of noteworthy mention is the fact that during the English periods of the film, subtitles are not available, a sign that this transfer was made for English audiences only.

  Audio
Contract

The solo Dolby Digital stereo audio track which has been included is primarily in Mandarin Chinese with portions in English. As far as stereo tracks go, this is fairly uninteresting and rather flat. Left-right separation is nearly non-existent, resulting in a rather disappointing and boring audio presentation, aiding in the sleepy factor that this film exudes. Dialogue is clear throughout yet, for this reviewer, obviously quite undistinguishable, excluding the English bits, of course. The score, provided by Kailli Peng, is soothing, moving and fitting for the film, however you won’t be leaving your lounge room whistling any tunes. The bass levels are reasonable yet nothing too earth shattering, and treble levels are equally matched. At one moment towards the end, a hint of over-compression can be heard, somewhat distracting for such an important sequence to the film.

  Extras
Contract

Madman have provided us with a fairly standard set of extras, presented with some static 16:9 enhanced menus which feature some of Peng’s score looping in the background.

From the extra features menu, up first is an audio commentary from writer/director Edward Yang. Throughout the 173 minutes of the film, Yang keeps us pretty busy offering passionate comments regarding the film, clearly identifying his love for his baby. We do at times feel that Yang has been distracted by his own film as there are some lengthy silent gaps, yet his enthusiasm for the rest of the film slightly justifies this. Also included is a photo gallery containing a measly eight photos as well as a 1:50 theatrical trailer. As expected, the Madman Propaganda is in place with five trailers, Satin Rouge (1:38), Monsoon Wedding (2:13), Samsara (2:16), The Tracker (2:06 and 16:9 enhanced) and The Safety of Objects (2:19).

  Overall  
Contract

I had great difficulty relating to Yi Yi. However, audiences around the world have adored this film so maybe there is some, big, obvious point that I honestly missed, but for this humble reviewer, it just didn’t “click”. Madman’s transfer is reasonable, with serviceable video and audio presentations and an informative batch of extras, even if they're only really restricted to an audio commentary. This is definitely one to rent before you buy.


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      And I quote...
    "Yi Yi, or A One and a Two sounds as if it should have some speedy pacing. Well at 173 minutes, the pacing guidelines have been thrown out the window..."
    - Martin Friedel
      Review Equipment
    • DVD Player:
          Sony DVP-NS530
    • TV:
          Sharp SX76NF8 76cm Widescreen
    • Receiver:
          Sony HT-SL5
    • Speakers:
          Sony SS-MSP2
    • Centre Speaker:
          Sony SS-CNP2
    • Surrounds:
          Sony SS-MSP2
    • Subwoofer:
          Sony SA-WMSP3
    • Audio Cables:
          Standard Optical
    • Video Cables:
          Standard Component RCA
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