A CONFUCIAN CONFUSION
獨立時代Directed by Edward Yang
Cast: Chen Shiang-chyi, Danny Teng, Joyce Ni, Wang Wei-ming
New 2K restoration by the Taiwan Film and Audiovisual Institute
Edward Yang’s ensemble films beautifully embody Taiwan’s social anxieties and everyday rhythms, but they are also portraits of complicated people experiencing deep emotional ruts. His flawed characters (both young and old) find themselves stuck in quandaries of the mind and spirit which can lead them down paths of redemption or violent upheaval.
Yang followed up his darkly tragic masterpiece A Brighter Summer Day (1991) with the dizzyingly talky satire A CONFUCIAN CONFUSION, a change in tone and pace that may seem tame by comparison. Here, artists and businessmen, bosses and assistants, lovers and friends, are interwoven into a comic knot. Yet its mosaic of bratty, successful twentysomethings navigating the changing economic climate of booming Taipei displays its own brutal understanding of human stagnation.
The unethical decisions and questionable behaviors that define the plot reveal a post-modern erosion of Confucius’ teachings, which Yang sees as the inevitable evolution of a capitalist society full of itself. But these are by no means unredeemable people. One of cinema’s great humanists, Yang believes in their capacity for self-reflection and humility. A CONFUCIAN CONFUSION is chock full of thematic contradictions, and that is exactly what makes it such a compelling snapshot of 1990s uncertainty.
—Glenn Heath Jr.