Ang Lee’s dad had always wanted his son to be a professor, but Lee had other plans in mind. Today Lee is an Oscar, Golden Globe, and Academy Award-winning director, screenwriter, and producer. Two of Lee’s most successful box office hits are the films Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and The Wedding Banquet. Even to this day, Ang Lee is one of the most sought out and celebrated people in the film industry.
In the 1970s, Lee’s decision to attend the University of Illinois ended up deeply straining his relationship with his father. However, despite this hurdle, Lee’s hunger for drama and the arts persisted throughout his college years. After completing his major in Theatre Direction, Lee pursued his masters at New York University. There, Lee truly began to perfect his craft by getting to work alongside talented classmates. Soon after, he produced a series called Fine Line which became an award-winning thesis film and even caught the attention of Hsu Li-Kong.
The successes of Lee’s short movies ultimately lead to his 1992 movie Pushing Hands which became a box office hit. This film earned him an Academy Awards nominations for his next two films Eat Drink Man Woman and Wedding Banquet. Lee continued to receive nominations for his work on Sense and Sensibility. Before long, Lee had won four Oscars for his work on Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, and The Ice Storm. Lee received an Academy Award for his work on the film Brokeback Mountain. Making him the first Asian to receive an Academy Award. Lee then earned his second Academy Award for directing Life of Pi making him the first director to win Best Director for a 3D movie. Unfortunately, Lee’s latest film Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk did not receive the same amount of praise as his other films. His recent film was met with mixed emotions and had critics hoping he will bounce back and continue his legacy of great filmmaking.
To this day, Ang Lee’s films Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and The Wedding Banquet are both considered masterpieces for different reasons. In Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Lee and Peter Pau created a variety of impressive cinematic shots to immerse the viewer in the films’ universe. In The Wedding Banquet Lee explores the taboo subject of homosexuality in a manner that takes into account for the trials and tribulations of the newer generation.
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon takes place in China where Li Mu Bai is known as one of the greatest warriors throughout all the mainland. Li Mu Bai decides to give up his warrior days and turn in his sword, the Green Destiny, to Shu Lien. A masked figure then steals the sword, and it is up to Li Mu Bai and Shu Lien to retrieve it. Li Mu Bai and Shu Lien romantic relationship are jeopardized when they discover a young princess Jen Yu and her significant other Lo. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon has multifaceted characters so in every scene every camera setup was character focused.
A powerful scene in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon was the bamboo forest fighting scene. In this scene, Lee and Pau raise the camera to a towering height to create the cinematic effect of the camera flying with them by following them in mid-air. The camera had such fluid movement from all angles. A specific shot in the film was when Jen Yu was falling through the bamboo at a low angle shot was used to make her seem vulnerable. Li Mu Bai was filmed at high angle shots looking down at Jen Yu giving him a dominant position during the fight. In the bamboo forest, the long shots of the environment were used to show the connection between Taoism and the environment. The characters did not stand out in the bamboo forest, but instead, they intertwined with the trees and blended in with the environment. The medium shots allowed for a sense of a more substantial scene while close-ups of both characters created a feeling of intimacy and intensity in the fight sequence.
The Wedding Banquet is about a Manhattan gay couple whose relationship is about to turn inside out when Wai-Tung’s parents decided to fly into town to visit him. Wai-Tung’s parents are completely unaware of their son’s sexual orientation, and upon visiting him, they pressure him into settling down and having a child so that he can continue the family lineage. Wai-Tung unready to tell his parents of his sexual preference decides to marry Wei-Wei, a female artist in need of a green card, in order to satisfy his parent’s wishes of granting them a grandchild. Surprisingly, Simon is even on board with Wei-Wei’s plan, but things go awry when Wei-Wei has sexual relations with a drunken Wai-Tung and becomes pregnant. Eventually, Wai-Tung’s parents do end up uncovering the truth about their son’s relationship with Simon, and although they do not approve of their son’s behavior, they do end up reconciling in some sense. Wai-Tungs’s father even goes as far as to give Simon the blank. Wai-Tung’s mother, on the other hand, is much less accepting of her son’s significant other and prefers that he stay with Wei-Wei instead.
Nature versus nurture is a frequent topic when talking about homosexuality. The Wedding Banquet attempts to negotiate all side of the social and political discourse about homosexuality both in the West and Asian communities. The narrative of the film suggests that Wai-Tung was born that way. A crucial scene in the movie was when Wai-Tung mother indicated that her son being a homosexual was because of Simon, a white man. Wai-Tung argues with his mom that he was not socially contaminated but that he was born this way. Another scene was when Wai-Tung’s mom suggested that her son’s homosexuality is just a phase. At this scene, Wei Wei defends Wai-Tung by implying to her future mother-in-law that her son is not going through a homosexual phase. The film continually shows that being homosexual is not exclusive to white people and that sexuality is something one is born with. The Wedding Banquet problematizes the myth that homosexuality is only for white people.
This film does a remarkable job of exploring the extremely taboo subject of homosexuality and interracial relations in regards to Asian culture. Compared to the Western world, most of the countries in Asia hold their traditional and conservative values to a higher standard. This movie excelled at showing the real world consequences and struggles that the newer generation has to deal with.