Tag Archives: ang lee

XL Popcorn – The Ice Storm

List Item: Watch all of the “1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die”
Progress: 872/1009Title: The Ice Storm
Director: Ang Lee
Year: 1997
Country: USA

He may have made a few mis-steps, but there is no denying that Ang Lee has one of the most diverse portfolios of a still-working director. On the 1001 list, his four entries are The Wedding Banquet, Brokeback Mountain, Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon and today’s film post. This doesn’t include him delving into the world of Austen, westerns or a solo voyage on a boat with a tiger.

With The Ice Storm, Ang Lee manages to scratch so many of my cinematic itches in a type of film that I have not seen from him before – and plays into a lot of the same areas that made me adore Lone StarThis is an ensemble piece which is part family drama, part melodrama and part slow motion car crash. The cast here is incredible with Sigourney Weaver, Kevin Kline, Christina Ricci, Tobey Maguire, Elijah Wood and the heartbreakingly brilliant Joan Allen.

Watching this in the first week of December turned out to be perfect seeing how this set in the days surrounding Thanksgiving, the titular ice storm occurring towards the end of the film. Ang Lee being the director he is, coupled with Mychael Danna’s haunting score (which is one of the first times I have heard gamelans in an American film) uses the instance of an ice storm to give some truly beautiful and haunting shots of the trees as crystalize and lean over in the ice. Really helps to bring to the fore how stunning and yet dangerous phenomena like this can be.

The actual ice storm aside, this is a family drama in middle class America at the time Watergate was happening. Social change was still in the air as the parents start to flex their own limits – with key parties, shoplifting and substance abuse – just as their teenage children are doing the same (minus the key parties). Makes for an interesting contrast seeing similar behaviour in both generations in different ways and being done in a way that will elicit very different reactions.

I also like how The Ice Storm feels like an earlyish film that, whilst acknowledging that the early 1970s were the height of kitsch, choses to completely cut the heart of what have been a very confusing time to be alive in America. Who do you trust when your president is under investigation? What is your place when the cogs of social movement are still going? Who in their right mind brings their own (albeit attractive) son to a key party? Okay that last one may just be a film specific question, but an important one nonetheless.

XL Popcorn – The Wedding Banquet

List Item: Watch all of the “1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die”
Progress: 442/1007Title: Xi Yan (The Wedding Banquet)
Director: Ang Lee
Year: 1993
Country: Taiwan/USA

The Wedding Banquet marks the fifth Ang Lee film that I have seen. All I can say is, that man has one hell of a range. From the period drama of Sense & Sensibility to the wuxia outing of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, I have yet to see a bad film by him. Then again, I have purposely avoided Hulk and Taking Woodstock for precisely this reason.

The Wedding Banquet is yet another side of Ang Lee – an LGBT centric comedy-drama. Now, there are not many gay interest movies that I have gotten on with in the past. Mainly because a lot of them feel a bit stereotypical and predictable. Film’s like Milk, All About My Mother and Lee’s own Brokeback Mountain are exceptions to this rule.

So, why did I like this film? The first thing was that the two main gay characters were not camp. This is a big thing  for me to get into a movie like this. The main reason, however, was how organic the situations, the writing, the humour and the characters felt. To be honest, it would be so easy to have created caricatures instead of people you can imagine meeting in real life.

The crux of the film is this – Wai-Tung, a gay Chinese man with American citizenship, takes part in a marriage of convenience so he can get his parents off his back and so the woman (his tenant) is able to get a green card. However, his parents make the trip from Taiwan to the USA and things get progressively more awkward from there – especially for Simon, Wei-Tung’s boyfriend of 5+ years.

The strange thing about this film is how it starts off as a heavily comedic East-meets-West film and then, around the time of the titular wedding banquet, it begins to descend into the drama. There’s a trip to the hospital, confessions, reconciliations and (now this is where the film lost me) rape.

What lose me is this, after the wedding Wai-Tung is left alone in the honeymoon suite with his new bride Wei-Wei. They are naked in bed because of some BIZARRE Chinese newlywed invasion thing (don’t ask, I have no idea if this is an actual thing). They are both drunk and exhausted, but she forces herself on him whilst he protests. There is no violence, but there doesn’t have to be – it is pretty clear.

The thing is, there is no real comeuppance for her other than the resulting pregnancy and this rang REALLY false with me. I mean, she was apologetic and all (and he doesn’t seem to think of it as such – so maybe I am reading too much into it) but there’s no real excuse here. The fact that one of the final scenes has her hugging Wai-Tung and Simon as they agree to raise the baby together was, well, just plain weird. Feels like a very unnecessary double-standard to have plonked into an otherwise good film.

Despite that lingering in the back of my head I was still able to enjoy the rest of the film – which included the begrudging acceptance of Wai-Tung’s orientation by his parents. The scene where he lets on that he knew all along and thanks Simon for looking after his son was very touching, but also troubling. The father seems to have played them all, not caring what happened, so that he could get a grandchild. Fun fact: if you want a son have a small boy jump on your consummating bed.

So yes, apart from the double standard I pointed out – really good film.