Revisiting Ang Lee's Films: An Insider's View From the Outside

Ang Lee - HRCFrom Aug. 1-11, 2009, an 11-day retrospective of director Ang Lee’s work, called “Intimate Views From Afar” will take place at the Film Society of Lincoln Center. Its title is more than fitting ­­— from his marginal characters to his cross-cultural portraits, Lee has an incredible skill of allowing the audience, a stranger and outsider to the plot, to watch a film as if they were experiencing the story from the inside out. Lee describes himself as a marginal figure himself. "Making movies is a way of understanding myself and the world. I have to go with curiosity to unknown territory to be an honest filmmaker," Lee said in an interview reported by the New York Times. When I watch Lee’s films, I feel as though I’m brought into another world that I continue to experience even after the film has ended. I recently saw his 2007 film “Lust, Caution,” a hauntingly complex espionage film with such raw, passionate scenes that I found myself still dwelling on the film weeks after I watched it. Then there are his famous Oscar-winning films, “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” and “Brokeback Mountain” which left me with unforgettable portraits of its beautiful scenes and depictions of entangled relationships.

With complexity at the core of his work, it’s fascinating how his films portray life in an uncanny yet beautiful manner. There’s always more to his films than meets the eye. As Lee says, “I find it hard to deliver straightforward things…When a thing has a little twisted angle, I know better what to do and find that I relate to it much more.”

Lee’s films also carry such versatility ­­— from watching his earlier films "The Wedding Banquet" (1993) and "Eat Drink Man Woman" (1994), it came as a surprise to me that he also directed “Sense and Sensibility”(1995) and “Hulk” (2003). The programming director of the Film Society, Richard Peña, describes: “There is nobody of his generation who ranges so far, from comic books to classics, and across cultures. There is a tendency for directors to establish a world and stay in it. But Ang represents a kind of fluidity of identity, a chameleonlike willingness to adapt and flow and change, that is very much a part of our postmodern world."

Ang Lee’s latest project is “Taking Woodstock,” a film based on the autobiography “Taking Woodstock: A True Story of a Riot, a Concert, and a Life” by Elliot Tiber and Tom Monte. The film, with a cast including Demetri Martin, Emile Hirsch, Jeffrey Dean Morgan and Live Schreiber, will be released on Aug. 28, 2009.

For a list of Ang Lee’s films and show times that will take place from Aug. 1-11, 2009 at the Film Society of Lincoln Center, click here.

Here is a preview of his upcoming film, “Taking Woodstock.”

Photo of Ang Lee courtesy of HRC