Nothing better than some huge Criterion news to kick start your work week.
Just a matter of hours before the company announces their January release schedule, a reader/Twitter follower David (@brokenkord on the old Twitters) tipped us onto a story that has apparently been a long time in the making.
On Sunday night, the San Francisco Film Society screened a restored print of the beloved Edward Yang epic A Brighter Summer Day. The 1991 epic from the Yi Yi director has not only been rumored as a Criterion release and even (at least according to the far more keen friend of the website David Ehrlich) hinted at directly by Janus/Criterion as a film coming down the pipeline for years now, but appears to be coming sooner rather than later. Kaili Peng, widow of the late filmmaker, was in attendance at this event, and revealed that the film’s restoration is due for a new theatrical run as well as a home video release from The Criterion Collection, the first time its been released in the US.
Now, (and I’m only familiar with the film in passing, as its almost impossible to find here stateside outside of coaster-ready bootleg copies, so I’m going from a discussion I had with Ehrlich on Twitter, as he’s a huge fan of the picture) the film was caught up in a web of music rights issues due to its use of songs from none other than Elvis. This appears to be the reason for the delay, as it has admittedly been talked about for years now.
Overall, there is no timetable given here, but at least the rumblings are growing in volume. It’s been a picture that I’ve been insanely interested in actually checking out, but given the difficulty one has in actually finding a watchable copy of the film, it’s been almost impossible to hunt down. The print has been touring for a while now, so it’s been a passion project for the company, and here’s to hoping we see it relatively soon. This is, afterall, the first time it will get any sort of theatrical/home video release stateside. Here’s the synopsis:
A deeply personal epic comparable in scope and impact to the Godfather movies and Sergio Leone’s Once Upon a Time in America, Edward Yang’s extraordinary memory film stretches tautly over four hours of screen time and more than 100 speaking parts. Set in the early 1960s (Yang’s own teenage years) and inspired by the true story of Taiwan’s first juvenile homicide case, the film follows rebellious teenager Xiao Si’r (future Happy Together and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon star Chang Chen) as he comes of age amidst rival street gangs and the ‘White Terror’ witch hunts of Chiang Kai-shek’s Kuomintang government. Few movies more readily call to mind the great, sprawling novels of the 19th century and their portraits of ordinary individuals caught in the maelstrom of a changing society. Never before released in the United States and unavailable on DVD, A Brighter Summer Dayfinally comes to audiences in a new restoration by the World Cinema Foundation of Yang’s original director’s cut.