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The Cinema of Ang Lee

The Cinema of Ang Lee: The Other Side of the Screen

whitney crothers dilley
Series: Directors' Cuts
Copyright Date: 2015
Edition: 2
Pages: 248
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  • Book Info
    The Cinema of Ang Lee
    Book Description:

    Through suggestive readings of gender and identity, this book explores the international appeal of an acclaimed contemporary director. The author has revised the book's introduction to reflect Ang Lee's new films and their global reception and adds to the text a consideration of new developments in Chinese film, recent critiques ofBrokeback Mountain(2005), and chapters onLust/Caution(2007),Taking Woodstock(2009), andLife of Pi(2012).

    eISBN: 978-0-231-53849-7
    Subjects: Film Studies, History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-xii)
  5. ONE Introduction: Ang Lee—A History
    (pp. 1-20)

    ANG LEE HAS been referred to as an auteur and it is not difficult to see why—he is an artist with his actors, and seems to draw amazing work out of his cast, from the smallest to the greatest, while continuing to reiterate common themes of family, culture, and identity in an astonishing variety of genres. Keeping in mind that he has made films in Mandarin Chinese, Taiwanese, British English from the time of Jane Austen, high-school drop-out cowboy English, American English from the Civil War era, and 1960s American hippie slang—with six languages (Mandarin, English, Japanese, Hindi,...

  6. TWO Ang Lee as Director: His Position in Asian and World Cinema
    (pp. 21-48)

    ANG LEE IS a transcendent filmmaker who has not only brought worldwide attention and wider reception to Chinese cinema, but he has also gone beyond his Chinese roots to become a postmodern and post-boundaried artist who moves as easily in Western genres as he does in Chinese. He is a postnational artist because he has crossed and blurred the boundaries not only of the Chinese diaspora (the meaning of the worddiasporais, literally, “the scattering of seeds”—a reference to the dispersed and displaced transnational communities of ethnic Chinese living outside of China and all around the globe) but...

  7. THREE Confucian Values and Cultural Displacement in Pushing Hands
    (pp. 49-58)

    ANG LEE’S THREE earliest films,Pushing Handsand his two phenomenal early international successes,The Wedding BanquetandEat Drink Man Woman, explore the topic of cultural identity using the English language as a tool for both communication and miscommunication. The medium of English is used for comic effect and to indicate a cultural barrier. In illustrating the capabilities and limitations of the use of English as a second language, Lee casts a discerning eye on the cultural landscape that exists in the blending and metamorphosis of Chinese and Western thinking. In this way, he is a filmic pioneer into...

  8. FOUR Transgressing Boundaries of Gender and Culture in The Wedding Banquet
    (pp. 59-68)

    WHILEPushing Handswas a hit in Taiwan and popular in Asian markets,The Wedding Banquetwas Ang Lee’s breakout film for the American general public. Although the film dealt with less-than-mainstream subject matter, according to coproducer James Schamus, the storyline followed the arc of a typical 1930s Hollywood screwball comedy—“except that it was gay and Chinese.”¹ The film’s plot is perhaps by now familiar—a Chinese son, Wai-Tung (Winston Chao), with a gay American lover, Simon (Mitchell Lichtenstein), wishes to get his parents to stop badgering him to marry; he is unwilling to tell them the truth about...

  9. FIVE Globalization and Cultural Identity in Eat Drink Man Woman
    (pp. 69-80)

    NO DIRECTOR OF modern film seems to contribute more to the debate on globalization, in the sense of blurring the distinctions between cultural identities and plumbing their interrelationships, than does Ang Lee. His own path to worldwide recognition has been a crossing of boundaries. As was detailed in this volume’s introduction, Lee left Taiwan in 1978 and relocated to the United States, where he completed a Masters of Fine Arts in Directing at New York University. His directorial focus shifted back and forth between his homeland and his adopted home in his earliest films, as he directed a series of...

  10. SIX Opposition and Resolution in Sense and Sensibility
    (pp. 81-93)

    THOUGH JANE AUSTEN’SSense and Sensibility, published in 1811, seems a work wholly restricted to the English countryside, the 1995 film rendition by Ang Lee illuminates the global and universal implications revealed by the dialectical struggle of this narrative. In addition to the titular dichotomy of “sense” and “sensibility,” an artistic divide in English literature was developing during the two most prolific decades of Austen’s writing career (1798–1818); the rationalism of the eighteenth century was gradually yielding to the nineteenth-century romantic emphasis on the psychology of the individual. In recent years, with the advancement of critical studies, Austen’s work...

  11. SEVEN Fragmentary Narratives/Fragmented Identities in The Ice Storm
    (pp. 94-106)

    ANG LEE’S FILMIC voice indicates the paradigm of globalized fragmentation in the contemporary era—that ours is no longer a world of totality—that the world has become more and more fragmentary. One of the most harrowing examples of this fragmentation in the work of Ang Lee isThe Ice Storm. In this film, Lee challenges the viewer with a new level of deconstruction and fragmentation of the family. This choice is an interesting one for the director, who had already negated and subverted the traditional Confucian patriarchal Chinese family structure inThe Wedding Banquet. In that film, the homosexuality...

  12. EIGHT Race, Gender, Class, and Social Identity in Ride with the Devil
    (pp. 107-117)

    ANG LEE HAS continued to surprise audiences with his versatility, and many were interested to learn of his initial foray into the genre of Civil War epic withRide with the Devil.¹ As a study of the psychological subtleties and conflict of war, this film has much to recommend it. This is a period piece, and, as such, can bring to life the remote era of conflicted North-South relations, racial and class issues, social struggle, etc., which were in high relief during the American Civil War. Set in the border states of Kansas and Missouri, the film explores the nature...

  13. NINE Wuxia Narrative and Transnational Chinese Identity in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
    (pp. 118-133)

    IN 2001, ANG LEE’S astonishing film,Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, the prototype of the new global swordfighting martial arts genre, gained major success in awards ceremonies in the United States, including, most notably, the Academy Awards. Best Music (Score) winner Tan Dun describedCrouching Tiger, Hidden Dragonas crossing boundaries—of film genres, musical traditions, and national cultures. This description of the film succinctly suggests the exciting trend toward globalization reflected by mainstream acceptance of a subtitled motion picture in Mandarin. This conception of globalization is not only realized as the synthesis and transcendence of opposites but also as the...

  14. TEN The Ultimate Outsider: Hulk
    (pp. 134-146)

    THE CHARACTER OF Spiderman was created by Marvel Comics editor Stan Lee in 1962 as a “modern” hero who would break the comic book formula by losing as many battles as he won. He was a more human superhero, riddled with angst, who would interact with the real world and experience self-doubt and failure. Similarly, Dr. Robert Bruce Banner, as the Hulk, is an antihero, a figure who in times of stress finds himself transformed into the dark (green) personification of his subconsciously repressed rage and anger. In the early 2000s, both Spiderman and the Hulk were the first of...

  15. ELEVEN Transcending Gender in Brokeback Mountain
    (pp. 147-157)

    ANG LEE‘S FILMBrokeback Mountain, a romance between two uneducated farmhands based on the 1997 short story by Annie Proulx, has been described as exploring the “last frontier” in mainstream film.¹ From the time of the film’s release in 2005, producer James Schamus, director Ang Lee, and screenwriters Larry McMurtry and Diana Ossana continued to receive numerous awards and accolades for making a film that revolutionizes the idea of love, obliterates gay stereotypes, and subverts traditional “macho” cowboy iconography. Instead, the film conjures bittersweet yearning for lost love and lost opportunity, transcending any narrow issues of sexuality or gender, and...

  16. TWELVE Eroticism and Performance in Lust/Caution
    (pp. 158-170)

    ANG LEE’SLust/Cautionis a powerful meditation on the topic of obsession and sexual desire played out against the epic backdrop of the Japanese occupation of Shanghai in World War II. The multilayered narrative ofLust/Cautionoffers a penetrating glimpse into the interplay between fantasy/performance and reality/truth. While the female protagonist Wang Chia-chih appears on the surface to be aiding the Chinese war effort in seducing the traitorous Mr. Yee, the intensity of their erotic bond causes her to lose hold of the original plan of the student conspirators, leading to an unexpected betrayal. The question, “Why did she do...

  17. THIRTEEN Memory, Narrative, and Transformation in Taking Woodstock
    (pp. 171-180)

    ANG LEE’S FILMTaking Woodstockdeals with memory, narrative, identity, and the reproduction of history and nostalgia vis-à-vis digital saturation in the media age. While the event of the Woodstock concert has been previously experienced as a product of memory, preserved through scattered recollections of the people present and grainy film images, the event has a powerful sense of nostalgia, a key element in Lee’s work. To further illustrate this nostalgic element, Lee shot the movie using an older type of film so that the film experience would not have the cutting-edge feel of digital film, but instead a slightly...

  18. FOURTEEN Storytelling and Truth in Life of Pi: A Spiritual Journey
    (pp. 181-191)

    ANG LEE HESITATED for two months before he agreed to take on Yann Martel’s complex book,Life of Pi, which charts a young boy’s journey across the Pacific Ocean and his struggle with despair, faith, and a ravenous 450-pound Bengal tiger. The narrative is imaginative, fantastical, and philosophical due to Martel’s themes of the quest for meaning and the search for truth; by making his protagonist a young boy whose open-mindedness helps him view the world in an unusual way in order to survive, Martel is able to disarm his readers and prepare them for an exploration of soul-searching depths....

  19. FIFTEEN Conclusion: The Dream of Cinema
    (pp. 192-196)

    SINCE HIS 2006 win of the Best Director Academy Award forBrokeback Mountain, followed again in 2013 by a second Best Director Academy Award forLife of Pi, Ang Lee’s position in world cinematic history has been firmly established; he is now considered one of the world’s leading directors. From the beginning, his career has been one of surprises. Since his earliest beginnings, with the Chinese trilogy ofPushing Hands,The Wedding Banquet, andEat Drink Man Woman, he has explored the themes of cultural identity and globalization with unabashed honesty. In these films, Lee probes the dilemma of the...

  20. NOTES
    (pp. 197-212)
    (pp. 213-222)
  22. INDEX
    (pp. 223-232)