When Taiwanese director Edward Yang died this summer at the age of 59, it was widely noted how difficult it was to see most of Yang’s films, only one of which, the Cannes-lauded Yi Yi, is widely available on DVD in the U.S. In the final weekend of its annual New Chinese Cinema series, the UCLA Film & Television Archive goes some way toward rectifying that situation by presenting a tribute screening of Yang’s masterpiece (and one of the greatest films of the ’90s), A Brighter Summer Day (1991), in the rarely shown director’s cut. An epic memory film set during the early 1960s (Yang’s own teenage years) and based on the true story of Taiwan’s first juvenile homicide case, Brighter stretches tautly over four hours of screen time and encompasses more than 100 speaking parts acted by mostly nonprofessional performers (including the film’s teenage star Zhang Zhen, who would grow up to become Happy Together and Crouching Tiger star “Chang Chen”). The ambition is startling, the achievement enormous — few movies more readily call to mind the great, sprawling novels of the 19th century and their astute juxtapositions of ordinary individuals against the maelstrom of a changing society. Miss it at your peril. (UCLA Film & Television Archive at the Billy Wilder Theater; Fri., Oct. 19, 7:30 p.m. www.cinema.ucla.edu)
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