Yang establishes a preternaturally natural tone, and actors both experienced (Wu, giving a masterfully controlled performance, and Issey Ogata, illuminating his every scene as NJ’s Japanese business associate) and untested (Lee and Chang, both imbued with a physical grace in their first film) mesh together in a tapestry of humanity. The film’s confluence of moments is almost unspeakably beautiful. It’s one of the finest films of the ’00s.
The Blu-ray Disc
Yi Yi is presented in 1080p high definition with an aspect ratio of 1.85:1. This disc represents a subtle and pleasing improvement over Criterion’s 2006 DVD of the film, which already featured extremely impressive image quality. On the whole, the film appears slightly brighter with more natural colors and greater image clarity. There isn’t a weak spot at all in the print, and a fine layer of film grain lends the transfer a convincingly film-like image. Yang frames his characters almost exclusively in long and medium shots, and even in extreme long shots, there is an enormous amount of detail visible.
Audio is presented in a 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack, and the stereo mix offers nice vocal ambience throughout, with voices spread cleanly across both channels. The Mandarin (and some English) dialogue is clean and rich, and Kaili Peng’s lovely piano score fills out the mix nicely.
Extras here are identical to those on the DVD release. Asian cinema expert Tony Rayns pairs with Yang on a commentary track, and it’s wonderful to have Yang’s thoughts on the film recorded for posterity (he died in 2007). Rayns is also featured in a breezy, but information-packed interview about the New Taiwan Cinema movement and Yang’s place within it. He considers Yi Yi to be one of the greatest accomplishments of that era.
The disc also includes the theatrical trailer (which shows just how impressive Criterion’s initial restoration was on the material) and a booklet with an essay by Kent Jones and notes by Yang from the original press kit.
The Bottom Line
Yi Yi is an essential piece of filmmaking and one of the greatest works of the 21st Century. Yang’s films are difficult to come by in this country, and the fact that his final film is easily available in such a fantastic presentation is a major blessing.