By Lisa Schwarzbaum
Updated November 10, 2000 at 05:00 AM EST

In Yi Yi, three generations of the middle-class Jian family go about the business of everydayness in high-rise Taipei: A wedding runs less than smoothly. A stroke fells Granny. An accidental flirtation with his old sweetheart upends the placidity of a middle-aged man’s marriage. A runty boy conducts an experiment, photographing the backs of people’s heads. Everywhere in this beautifully understated drama, the blessedness of ordinary people, as individuals and bound in clans, is knowingly, movingly conveyed.

The title of Taiwanese filmmaker Edward Yang’s subtle epic — a ”soap opera” that’s the opposite of soapy, for which Yang won the directing prize this year at Cannes — comes from the Chinese word for ”one.” And the English-export translation ”A One and a Two” gives a good sense of the movie’s gentle, dancerly lilt (these 173 minutes don’t drag, they waltz); it also suggests the director’s interest in the tensions between personal desires and group will. Yang (renowned for his 1991 critical favorite A Brighter Summer Day) moves so naturally and unshowily from character to character that each gets to come alive, but if there’s a showstopper, it’s young Jonathan Chang as the little picture-snapper, Yang-Yang. Like the filmmaker, the boy’s got a lovely gift for capturing what’s important, and forgiving what’s not. A

Yi Yi (A One and a Two)

  • Movie
  • 173 minutes
  • Edward Yang