Mahjong | 麻将 (1996): “..What I find remarkable about Edward Yang’s films..”


Photo credits: © 2020 Feargal Agard | HoFA

“I extremely like the Taiwanese film Mahjong (1996) by Edward Yang, which has nothing to do with the tile-based game at all. It’s actually about a missing businessman who owes money to an underworld gang and the alienation between him and his son who is the leader of a youth gang. So actually the name of the movie pertains to somewhat of a competition taking place noticed in the film’s subtext and narrative. Edward Yang is actually a very important Taiwanese filmmaker. Unfortunately, he died in 2007 at age 59. Most people might know him from his last work Yi Yi (2000) which won the Palme d’Or for best director at Cannes Film Festival. But back to Mahjong which he released in the middle of his career. The film, in my opinion, has a very complex narrative structure and each character has a symbolic identity. The protagonist and his friends, who are young gangsters, know a lot about making money illegally and one of his friends even sells his body to rich women. It’s ironic how that particular character believes that he is playing these rich women to get money from them and he lets them take care of think. He thinks he is in control of the situation but in the end, they tell him that he is just their toy to play with while throwing money in his face. This causes him to spiral downwards as it hurts him. Besides that, the protagonist has a very bad relationship with his father which finds its roots in the generation gap and the alienation between them. What I find remarkable about Edward Yang’s films is that they were funded by firms and how not all audiences appreciated his films. They sometimes felt it was a waste of money because his films were more of art versus pure entertainment for the masses. But it is also a reflection of capitalism being implemented in Taiwan. Taiwan developed really fast which changed the culture and the way that the economy works. Modern times have caused a gap between the older and the younger generation. I find this very recognizable as a citizen from Hong Kong. Even though, Hong Kong and Taiwan are two very different places I can see some similarities. Especially when I think of the generation gap. Youngsters want to do things in a more modern way and contribute to their city and its population and the older generation is all about making money and outdated policies that have no function in today’s world. What I am trying to say is that the Mahjong basically discusses two opposites. The old and new generation, their different objectives and how they aren’t able to be on the same page.” – Lo Chun Yip

Actor in Suk Suk (2019) Dutch premiere at CinemAsia | Filmmaker

Photo and story by Feargal Agard

The Film is also named: Ma Jiang |  麻将