A subtitled three-hour saga of an ordinary middle-class urban family in modern-day Taiwan, at first glance, A One and a Two
might not seem the most appealing of prospects. But don't be misled: this is a film that draws you in with all the warmth and density of a good novel, and once you are past the surface unfamiliarity of Taipei society, there's nothing in this tale of a troubled family that would seem alien anywhere in the world.
Romantic stories often end with a wedding. Realistic stories are as likely to begin with one. Writer-director Edward Yang's film starts in a mass of floaty white dresses and heart-shaped pink balloons, but the smiles seem a little too effusive, the jollity feels forced. And sure enough, disaster is lurking. The seeming simplicity of Yang's narrative style conceals a subtle, intricate design. His camera moves obliquely, often holding its distance from the action, letting us take in all the elements of a scene and draw our own conclusions. Wider social implications--about modern society, about international business ethics--are hinted at, but never rammed home. By the end we realise we've been watching a microcosm of human life, with all its humour and tragedy. For all the apparent narrowness of its canvas, A One and a Two makes most British and American films feel hopelessly parochial. The Best Director Prize at Cannes was rarely more richly deserved.
On the DVD: A One and a Two comes to disc with a generous helping of extras. The original theatrical trailer, wordless and intriguing; numerous cast and crew biographies; a brief stills gallery; and, best of all, a full three-hour commentary track of Edward Yang in conversation with Tony Rayns, UK expert on Chinese-language cinema. Their discussion is relaxed and illuminating. The print, and the SR Dolby Digital sound, are clean and crisp, and we get the full 1.85:1 ratio of the original release. --Philip Kemp