With the complete retrospective of his films currently running at the Film Society of Lincoln Center and with his next film Taking Woodstock due to release later this month, Ang Lee is once again in the news.
For those interested in Lee’s work and his celebrated willingness to explore a variety of stories and characters from gay cowboys and hulking superheros to disaffected suburbanites and British Victorians, Whitney Crothers Dilley’s The Cinema of Ang Lee: The Other Side of the Screen offers an insightful exploration of the director’s work. Dilley was quoted in a recent New York Times article focusing on Lee. In the article Dilley says of Lee, “He doesn’t want to be categorized one particular way, but there are major themes he comes back to again and again. For example, the figure of the father, even the flawed or absent father, is one of his most trenchant themes and is present, along with generational conflict, in all of his work.”
Dilley also argues that the theme of the outsider is crucial to Ang Lee’s work, “In ‘Hulk’ Ang Lee was choosing the ultimate outsider and trying to render that character comprehensible, if not acceptable. That’s the thematic thread that sets Ang Lee apart and puts him in the pantheon of world-class directors: his desire to explore the world of the misfit, the alienated, the misunderstood, the one who isn’t accepted.”
For more on Lee, you can also read an excerpt from an interview that was published in Chris Berry’s Speaking in Images: Speaking in Images: Interviews with Contemporary Chinese Filmmakers. In the interview, Lee offers an odd simile to describe his approach to filmmaking, “I always compare filmmaking to cooking. Shooting is like buying the groceries. You buy all kinds of ingredients and the better ingredients you get, the better chance you have of making the movie you want.”
Finally (and just for fun), here’s the trailer to Ang Lee’s forthcoming Taking Woodstock: