Welcome Stu from Popcorn Nights for helping me host December’s topic, the filmography of Ang Lee. Stu says:
Her role was dense and the story line creamy and hot, a mug brimming with secrets and meaningful glances; this quiet thriller simmers, and clocked at two hours and thirty-nine minutes, you’ll need time and a comfy couch to sip and savor this sensory treat. Chinese actress Tang Wei portrays secret agent Wong Chia Chi, or Jiazhi, involved in an espionage ring of revolutionaries who plot to kill Mr. Yee, a despised, political official of the Imperial Japanese Army during 1938-1942. Set in Hong Kong and Shanghai, this unusual love story encapsulated a range of emotions including passion, tenderness, hatred, and sacrifice–it hearkened to nineteenth century sophistication like Anna Karenina or Madame Bovary. The obvious theme is secrecy. No one is who they claim to be, and the cast of characters are surprised at the lengths they are willing to go for their passions. This is an Ang Lee specialty. No character is allowed to be simple. When it comes to relationships, they are complicated and universal.
Let’s talk about sex.
Rated NC-17, for the first hour, Lee establishes the back story and has us empathizing with Wong Chia Chi as the naïve girl who loves to go to the movies and discovers she is good at acting at her Chinese university. She assumes the identity as Mrs. Mai and infiltrates the inner circle of Mr. Lee. Coy and confident, we can see she is acting, mimicking the actresses she has seen on the screen and participating in a cause for the rebellion. When she becomes Mr. Lee’s mistress and the sex happens, Mr. Lee and she reach a level of intimacy that flips what is real and what is fake. The world gets their masked exteriors while out of their need for one another, trust and authenticity blossoms. I wasn’t watching sex, I was privy to a concert of the beautiful music of blended bodies. Sex was a supporting character of the composition. That level of intimacy combined with beautiful costumes, exotic settings, and great acting by the entire cast, few directors (Jane Campion’s,The Piano) have managed to pull it off–love–but Ang Lee succeeds here.
I am echoing Tom’s questions and invite you to comment about any of Ang Lee’s films. Why do you like Ang Lee? Is it the complicated love relationships? His genre repertoire? His collaborations? His experimentation of special effects and how it is used to extend the story line?