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After Yang at Union South Marquee
December 3, 2022 @ 6:30 pm - 8:10 pmFree
Techno-sapien Yang (right) sets a camera timer to take a photo of his foster family, then moves into frame with the rest of them (father Jake, mother Kyra, and daughter Mika), all smiling.
Kogonada retools futuristic technological conventions into a poignant tale of connection in After Yang (2021), a filmic tone poem, a metaphysical chamber play on the virtues of our differences, between the multicultural and the human and nonhuman.
Based on a short story by Alexander Weinstein, the film moves through an unspecified future time when couple Jake and Kyra (Colin Farrell and Jodie Turner-Smith) are raising an adopted Chinese daughter, Mika “Mei Mei” (Malea Emma Tjandrawidjaja) with the aid of android or “techno-sapien” Yang (Justin H. Min). Yang’s presence as a surrogate sibling to Mika not only offers peace of mind but fosters both a subliminal and plainspoken bond to her heritage. However, this is momentarily severed when Yang inexplicably shuts down one night, forcing Jake to repair him and familial unity by extension.
From his background in video essays, Kogonada lends the film a soft, appealing precision, the same that infused the architectural contours and paths of 2017’s low-key masterpiece Columbus. Where that film was mindfully fixated on symmetry, After Yang is aglow with geomancy or feng shui principles that are conceptualized in the family’s Joseph Eichler house as a grand tea room and literally harmonized in fragmented song (Mitski’s faithful cover of Lily Chou-Chou’s “Glide”) throughout. The off-screen ring of wind chimes and Aska Matsumiya and Ryuichi Sakamoto’s score, suspended in pianissimo, further lend the film the feeling of a visual meditation tape.
After Yang meshes memorial themes explored in other sci-fi dramas like Marjorie Prime (2017) and A.I. Artificial Intelligence (2001), as it’s perennially attuned to loss and the struggle between despair and hope. Ultimately, the richly edited tapestry of quotidian, Malickian moments, sporadically captured and later witnessed through clips in first-person perspective from Yang’s memory bank, reveal to the characters their collective strengths and soul—a sort of extension of the Buddhist philosophy on layers of consciousness.
Kudos to WUD Film for providing a space for a belated first-time local theatrical screening.
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