Yi Yi: A One and a Two

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"Yi Yi" redirects here. For the Korean scholar and philosopher, see Yi I.
Yi Yi: A One and a Two
Directed by Edward Yang
Produced by Shinya Kawai
Written by Edward Yang
Starring Nien-Jen Wu
Elaine Jin
Issey Ogata
Kelly Lee
Jonathan Chang
Hsi-Sheng Chen
Su-Yun Ko
Music by Kai-Li Peng
Cinematography Wei-han Yang
Edited by Bo-Wen Chen
Distributed by Kuzui Enterprises
Release dates
  • May 14, 2000 (2000-05-14) (Cannes)
Running time
173 minutes
Country Taiwan
Language Mandarin

Yi Yi: A One and a Two (Chinese: 一一; pinyin: Yī Yī; literally: "one one") is a Taiwanese/Japanese film written and directed by Edward Yang, about the emotional struggles of an engineer named NJ (played by Nien-Jen Wu) and the lives of his middle-class Taiwanese family in Taipei seen through three generations.

The title in Chinese means "one by one", in the sense of "one after another." When written in vertical alignment, the two strokes resemble the character for "two" ().

Yi Yi premiered at the 2000 Cannes Film Festival,[1][2] where Yang won the Best Director Award.[3]


Yi Yi is an epic story about the Taipei Jian family seen through three perspectives: the middle-age father NJ (Nien-Jen Wu), the young son Yang-Yang (Jonathan Chang), and the teenage daughter, Ting-Ting (Kelly Lee). The three-hour piece starts with a wedding, concludes with a funeral, and contemplates areas of human life in between.

The father, NJ, is unsatisfied with his work and the desire of his business partners to enter into a deal with a well-known Japanese videogame company. While his partners are only concerned about making money, NJ finds that his honest nature is unappreciated in the commercial realm. To his surprise, he finds a connection with the Japanese software mogul, Ota. An old flame, Sherry, tries to walk into his life after a chance reunion.

His youngest son has troubles at school with his teachers, while his daughter has to handle a love triangle involving her friend next door and her troubled boyfriend. All three try to deal with their problems while caring for NJ's mother-in-law, who is in a coma, and in the absence of NJ's wife, who has left for a Buddhist retreat after facing a midlife crisis. In addition, A-Di, NJ's overweight brother-in-law who marries a starlet at the start of the film, has to wrestle with his demanding wife and a former love, complicating matters within this extended family.

The other Taiwanese cast members include Elaine Jin as NJ's wife, Min-Min, Su-Yun Ko as NJ's former love Sherry, Hsi-Sheng Chen as A-Di, and Pang Chang Yu as Fatty. The film also stars Japanese comedian Issey Ogata as a Japanese software mogul, Ota.

Production and casting[edit]

Yi Yi's principal shooting began on April 8, 1999 and lasted until August 21, 1999. Before this, Yang's script had required the children to be ages ten and fifteen, but Yang later found Jonathan Chang and Kelly Lee, who had never acted before. When shooting began, they were eight and thirteen respectively. Yang made amendments to the script accordingly.

Awards and accolades[edit]

Following its debut at the 2000 Cannes Film Festival, Yi Yi has collected a host of awards from prestigious international festivals. Yi Yi garnered director Edward Yang the Best Director at Cannes in 2000 and was nominated for the Palme d'Or in the same year. Yi Yi also won the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival's Netpac Award ("For the perceptive and sensitive portrayal of a generation and cultural gap in Taiwan and the painful choices to be made in these difficult times."), the Vancouver International Film Festival's Chief Dan George Humanitarian Award and tied with Topsy-Turvy to win the 2000 Sarajevo Film Festival's Panorama Jury Award.

It won Best Foreign Film from the French Syndicate of Cinema Critics in 2001, the Grand Prix at the Fribourg International Film Festival in Switzerland in 2001, The Best Foreign Film from the Los Angeles Film Critics Association Awards in 2000, Best Film from the National Society of Film Critics in 2001 (where Yang also won 2nd place for a Best Director Award), and Best Foreign Language Film from the New York Film Critics Circle Awards in 2000. The film was nominated for the prestigious Grand Prix of the Belgian Syndicate of Cinema Critics. The film also won a "Best Film - China/Taiwan" award and "Best Director" award from the 2002 Chinese Film Media Awards, a "Best Film" award at the 2001 Chinese Film Media Awards, It was named one of the best movies of 2001 by many prominent publications and intellectuals, including the New York Times, Newsweek, USA Today the Village Voice, Film Comment, the Chicago Reader, and the author Susan Sontag, among others. Specifically, Yi Yi was named "Best Film of the Year" (2000) by the following film critics and writers: A.O. Scott of The New York Times, Susan Sontag writing for ArtForum, Michael Atkinson of the Village Voice, Steven Rosen of the Denver Post, John Anderson, Jan Stuart and Gene Seymour writing for Newsday, and Stephen Garrett as well as Nicole Keeter of Time Out New York.

The film also won 2nd place for Best Director, Best Film and Best Foreign Language Film in the 2000 Boston Society of Film Critics Awards, and was also nominated for: a Best Foreign Language Film award from the Awards Circuit Community Awards, a Best Non-American Film award from the 2003 Bodil Awards, a Best Foreign Language Film award from the 2001 Chicago Film Critics Association Awards, the Best Cast, Best Movie and Best Original Screenplay from the 2002 Chlotrudis Awards, a Best Foreign Film award from the 2001 Cesar Awards, a Screen International Award from the 2000 European Film Awards, a Best Asian Film award from the 2002 Hong Kong Film Awards, a Best Foreign Language Film award from the Online Film & Television Association, a Best Foreign Language Film award from the 2001 Online Film Critics Society Awards, and a Golden Spike award from the 2000 Valladolid International Film Festival.

In 2002, Yi Yi was selected by the British film magazine Sight and Sound as one of the ten greatest films of the past 25 years, along with Apocalypse Now, Raging Bull, Fanny and Alexander, Goodfellas, Blue Velvet, Do the Right Thing, Blade Runner, Chungking Express, Distant Voices, Still Lives, and Once Upon a Time in America. (There was a tie.)

Yi Yi also placed third in a 2009 Village Voice Film Poll ranking "The Best Film of the Decade," tying with La Commune (Paris, 1871) (2000) and Zodiac (2007), and also placed third in a 2009 IndieWire Critics' Poll of the "Best Film of the Decade."

It is ranked as the third-most critically acclaimed film of the 21st century by the website They Shoot Pictures Don't They?. Finally, the film was also summarized by film critic Nigel Andrews, who stated in the Financial Times that "[t]o describe [Yi Yi] as a three-hour Taiwanese family drama is like calling Citizen Kane a film about a newspaper."[4]

Home media[edit]

The film is also currently available on The Criterion Collection as a "Director-approved Special Edition", and features a newly restored digital transfer a long with a DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack (on the Blu-ray), audio commentary from Yang and Asian film critic Tony Rayns,a taped interview with film critics Rayns about Yang and the New Taiwanese Cinema movement, the U.S. theatrical trailer, an original English subtitle translation by Yang and Rayns, and an essay by writer Kent Jones as well as notes from Yang himself.[5]


The piano pieces in Yi Yi's soundtrack are mostly performed by Kaili Peng, Yang's wife. They include well-known pieces like Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata and J.S. Bach's Toccata in E minor (BWV 914). Peng has a small cameo in the film as a concert cellist, playing the Beethoven's Cello sonata No. 1 with her husband posing as a pianist.


External links[edit]