A Brighter Summer Day (1991) immerses us in a world of gangs, betrayal, love, tragedy, and sociological change--all with school kids. This is why the film is so successful: it treats angsty teenage squabbles with the gravitas of a stunning crime drama. And yet, genuine violence and trauma seeps in despite a mostly calm, observational tone that brilliantly invokes Ozu.
I love James Ponsoldt because he can make seemingly average or mundane locations sing with naturalistic beauty, and Edward Yang does the same with his beloved Tapai.
Who is to blame for the anguished hooliganism? The parents? Schools? The government? Or should the blame simply lie with the kids? ABSD is about so much and so many people across four hours, its difficult to process it all. Another viewing is necessary for context now that I know where the narrative sprawls. I picked up on many ingenious set-ups and call-back details, but I'm positive there's more lying in wait to be discovered. I wouldn't be surprised if ABSD is a "I find something new every viewing" kind of masterpiece.
Regardless, this is one of best 1991, '90s, crime, romance, drama, and coming-of-age films I've ever seen.