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[FILM] Ang on What Asians, Gays and Cowboys Share

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  • chiayuan25
    Ang on What Asians, Gays and Cowboys Share BY JOYCE GUAN, Dec 09, 2005 Director Ang Lee has a history of being a trailblazer, and his new film, Brokeback
    Message 1 of 1 , Feb 21, 2006
      Ang on What Asians, Gays and Cowboys Share

      BY JOYCE GUAN, Dec 09, 2005

      Director Ang Lee has a history of being a trailblazer, and his new
      film, Brokeback Mountain, is no exception, both in subject matter
      and cinematic style. He made his directorial debut with Pushing
      Hands (1992), followed by The Wedding Banquet in 1993, which
      garnered film festival awards as well as Golden Globe and Academy
      Award nominations.

      Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000) is considered one of Lee's
      greatest works and is America's highest-grossing foreign-language
      film. Lee is also one of the first Chinese-born directors to cross
      cultures telling stories with no Asian content or actors, including
      Sense and Sensibility (1995), The Ice Storm (1997), Ride with the
      Devil (1999), and The Incredible Hulk (2003).



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      AW: How do you select the films that you work on, and what
      characterizes a signature Ang Lee film?

      At heart, I am a dramatist, and love dramatic elements and conflict.
      A signature Ang Lee film addresses the conflict between personal
      free will, and social pressures or obligation. Nice guys always
      struggle, and I like to peel the comfortable covers off and explore
      that uncomfortable zone, which is revealed when common codes of
      behavior are violated. A subcurrent of repression always runs
      through my films. … If a project is not scary and sensitive, then
      it's probably less interesting to me.

      My upbringing in Taiwan makes my interest in these stories extremely
      personal. Growing up, my artistic leanings were always repressed
      because there was always pressure to do something "useful" like be a
      doctor.



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      AW: Part of what makes your films so powerful is your unwavering
      attention to detail and authenticity. How do you immerse yourself in
      cultures completely different from yours?

      Various stories require different genres, and I like the genre-
      hopping very much, as I get the opportunity to work with vastly
      different societies and film crews.

      In terms of creating authenticity in order to portray a [different]
      culture — I just try my best to survive because the material
      possesses me. I am attracted to the unfamiliar and am curious to
      find out why I am so moved when I find a compelling story. When I'm
      possessed, I tend to forget about the danger ground. You feel very
      dumb when you don't know about something and there will always be an
      awkward learning curve.

      Creating authenticity is not that hard compared to evoking the
      intended reaction from audiences.



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      AW: Many Asian directors and actors seem to be typecast and work in
      only one genre or culture. Have you ever felt limited by people's
      expectations?

      It's easy to be pigeonholed. I am more free from that because I
      generate and choose my own material. Since release of The Wedding
      Banquet, I have developed relationships with international
      distributors, giving me more freedom and control over how my films
      are released. I don't do big Hollywood movies [The Incredible Hulk
      is an exception], so the trade-off is we don't have huge budgets and
      need to be budget-conscious. My cross-cultural body of work does
      seem to be unique amongst Asian filmmakers.

      I'm like a rolling stone; I don't like to gather moss and always
      need to keep fresh. Many directors are not comfortable with the
      trade-offs of doing that. For instance, John Woo may want to do
      something different, but won't get the budget, creating a barrier
      for him to branch out from the genre and style that people seek him
      out for.



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      AW: What is the anticipated reaction for this film from both critics
      and the general public, and how does the feedback affect you?

      So far the reaction to Brokeback Mountain has been very positive,
      and it's a story with lots of deep emotion. I'm not sure what to
      expect, although some denial is expected — some people will claim
      that there are no gays in Wyoming, although of course there are. At
      the same time, the subject matter of this film is different because
      it addresses universal feelings — above all, it is a romantic love
      story, and probably won't be mislabeled as merely a gay film.



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      AW: `The Wedding Banquet' was a story of cultural and generational
      differences between a gay New Yorker and his Taiwanese parents;
      does `Brokeback Mountain' feel similar?

      To me, these two stories are very different. The Wedding Banquet is
      a family drama, originally made for a mainstream Taiwanese audience.
      It is a comedy of mannerisms and a social commentary. Brokeback
      Mountain deals with the secrecy of a homosexual lifestyle and is
      fundamentally a story about romance.



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      AW: Your love seems to be for drama and storytelling –– do you see
      yourself producing anything other than films?

      The infrastructure that supports my filmmaking is my sense of social
      obligation –– the feeling that there are stories to be told. I am a
      filmmaker at heart, and am happy to make one movie after another.
      For me, this is the best medium for me to communicate and reveal the
      drama of the human condition.



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      AW: Cowboys are not known for openly expressing their emotions.
      Asians share a similar stereotype. Do you see any parallels between
      Asians and cowboys in how they deal with taboo sexual subjects such
      as homosexuality?

      I see the themes of repression in Brokeback Mountain as being
      universal regardless of culture. However, it is true that Eastern
      culture and the nature of cowboys share a certain indirectness,
      quiet nature, and use of body language to communicate that are quite
      similar. There are similarities in the art of the two cultures as
      well –– they both emphasize feelings of sadness, melancholy, and
      expansive space through various media.

      The difference is that Western culture is more macho, whereas
      Eastern culture is –– more lunar and feminine in nature. Thus, when
      it comes to attitudes about homosexuality, my personal theory is
      that Eastern culture is more relaxed than in the West. This stems
      from a difference in why a culture perceives homosexuality to be
      wrong –– in Western culture, it stems from religion, and you are
      condemned if you are gay. Eastern culture seems more, flexible ––
      and being gay is more of a social issue than a religious one; there
      is no deity to offend. The West also seems to tolerate lesbians more
      than gays because it's a very macho culture; homosexuality is not
      okay because it threatens this culture. Of course, this is my
      observation in general –– I am sure that there are happy gay ranch
      hands in Wyoming with very sensitive neighbors as well.

      http://news.asianweek.com/news/view_article.html?
      article_id=6c717f4c21f08213546f4518559a6c0c
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