Best of the Decade #13

by robbiefreeling
December 17, 2009 2:08 AM
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Cinephilia is usually characterized as an insatiable, promiscuous kind of love, but Edward Yang’s Yi Yi tempts me to think of it as monogamous. While this certainly isn’t the only film I’ve ever held dear, the reverence it commands leads me to a few hyperbolic convictions most often associated with romantic commitment: that its entrance into my life was destined; that I never truly loved before it; that it will always mean this much to me. As with most worthwhile passions, though, this personal canon of one arouses an impulse for self-doubt. What is it in Yi Yi that makes me think, however momentarily, that I could relinquish the rest of cinema’s varied treasures? Insofar as one’s professed aesthetic values function as an advertisement of an idealized self-image, there must be a strong element of narcissism in my devotion to this film, perhaps the false implication that I have successfully internalized the wisdom at its heart. Surely there is something maudlin about my desire to understand my life in parallel to it and my eagerness to subscribe wholeheartedly to its worldview. Not only does Yi Yi offer a space for its audience to make peace with life’s contradictions (or at least imagine what it would be like to do so), but it couples its serenity with the sense that we—like its characters—possess profound capacities for emotion that counteract bourgeois numbness. Or maybe, in love, timing is everything. My intense identification with Yi Yi—a film that came to me just as I began to fret over what it might mean to be a grown-up—once satisfied a late-teenage compulsion to rehearse the responsibilities and disappointments of adult life from a safe distance. Could it be that my continued adoration is rooted only in nostalgia? Read Andrew Chan on Yi Yi.

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