Things I’ve Learned As A Moviemaker: Ang Lee

An ever-evolving director with international reach, Ang Lee laughs at the label of “auteur.”

But his impact on world cinema is undeniable. Lee is the director several award-winning films, including Sense and Sensibility (1995), Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000), and Brokeback Mountain (2005). His latest feature Lust, Caution is an adaptation of the erotic crime thriller Se, Jie by Chinese novelist Eileen Chang. MovieMaker sat down with Lee to get his golden rules of movie making.

On Auteurism

What does auteur mean? One who repeats himself?

On Subverting Genres

Whenever I do “genre” I try to bend it or mix in something else to find something refreshing.

On Making “Kung Fu” Movies

There really is a powerful, raw energy in making martial arts movies, and I think they’re very attractive and very inspiring to filmmakers. [At first] making them reminded me of when I did military service in Taiwan. It’s mandatory. I had to deliver the cheesy part on one hand, and the highbrow part on the other. It’s really torture to the actors, being hanged with wires is bad enough and then to have to act is really torture.

On the Goal of a Moviemaker

We live in the world of gravity, and we try to defy it.

On Cinematography

I use wide screens for horses, because they have big heads and they’re high.

On Being Funny

Being funny doesn’t mean anything, whether slapstick or pure comedy, whether romantic or absurdist. For me it would probably be the most difficult thing. Maybe I need more time. If they were to point to a gun to my head and make me do a funny film, I wouldn’t know how to do that.

On Future Projects

I think a thriller would be great, or a ghost story or, at a certain point, a musical.

On Action Sequences

Unless the movement is an extension of characterization and interpretation of the relationship, then it’s no good.

On Stars

Stars are stars and you have to pay more attention to them than regular actors. They deserve to be shown more care. They have a contract with their audience.

On Male Desire

I suspect that it’s a male fantasy to have a lot of potent women. It’s even more fascinating to conquer them.

On Taiwanese Culture

In my culture, we don’t have a creator. A God, anything three feet above our heads, is a mystery. We observe and try to humble and reduce our desire until we explode, and then there’s chaos and people find new lies and a new balance; that’s how the society works. MM

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