DENNIS SCHWARTZ 
IS THERE ANY GOOD 
IN SAYING 
EVERYTHING ABOUT A MOVIE?

 
THAT DAY, ON THE BEACH (HAI TAN DE YI TIAN) (director/writer: Edward Yang; screenwriter: Nien-Jen Wu; cinematographers: Christopher Doyle/Hui Kung Chang; editor:  Edward Yang; cast: Terry Hu (Qing Qing), Sylvia Chang (Jia Li), Zhuo Ming Xiang (Jia Lin), David Mao (Cheng Dewei); Runtime: 167; MPAA Rating: NR; Tai Seng Video; 1983-Taiwan-in German/Taiwanese/Mandarin with English subtitles)

 
"Yang is credited with launching the Taiwanese New Wave in his debut feature."

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

The earnest drama about a disturbed family is the debut film of Taiwanese filmmaker Edward Yang ("Yi Yi"/"A Brighter Summer Day"/"Taipei Story"), who co-wrote it with Nien-Jen Wu. Yang, who died in 2007 at age 59, is credited with launching the Taiwanese New Wave in his debut feature. Though well-presented, it seemed too long and only covering soap opera material. Through its confusing use of flashbacks with constant revelations about family life, secret lovers and constant shifts in the way the main characters behaved over the years, it's made to seem deeper than warranted. A Hollywood studio star in the 1950s like Bette Davis, Joan Crawford or Barbara Stanwyck could knock off satisfying sudsers like this one with regularity.

The jaded Qing Qing (Terry Hu) is an internationally renowned concert pianist who returns to Taiwan from a European tour and reunites after thirteen years with her estranged childhood friend from Taipei, the disillusioned divorced housewife just starting a new business, Jia Li (Sylvia Chang), for an afternoon chat over tea. They reminisce about old times. Qing Qing during those school days had dated Jia Li's aspiring to be medical doctor brother Jia Lin (Zhuo Ming Xiang), forced by dad to follow in his footsteps even though not suited for that career. Through flashbacks we meet Jia Li's family: her imperious and womanizing doctor father rules the family, and orchestrates arranged marriages for both his children. This messes up Qing Qing's relationship with Jia Li's brother. Not willing to wait for her father to choose her a groom, Jia Li elopes with her ordinary teenage boyfriend De Wei (David Mao) and later successful businessman. The pic goes into some developments about the relationships that the Taiwanese viewer will get and react to, but probably not a foreigner. Which makes the pic a bit of drag, though not without a few interesting developments such as its tale of a disappearing man and the ability of the hurt Jia Li to overcome these hurts and change for the better. The melancholy humanist pic entertains in the same ennui urban dramatic tone of an Antonioni romancer, but without the heft of the Italian master.

REVIEWED ON 3/19/2013       GRADE: B

Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"

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