It's always fascinating (and informative) to see the early steps of master filmmakers. The great Taiwanese director Ang Lee - Sense and Sensibility (1995), Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000) and Brokeback Mountain(2005) - began his career after he studied film at prestigious New York University and labored unemployed for six years to become a screenwriter. Eventually one of his scripts, Pushing Hands (1992), a gentle intergenerational look at clashing cultures, found a producer back in his native Taiwan, and Lee never looked back. See this first film and his two subsequent breakout hits, The Wedding Banquet (1993) and Eat Drink Man Woman (1994), at Rice Universitys Ang Lee Retrospective.
Both Banquetand Eat Drink were nominated for Academy Awards for Best Foreign Film, and each won numerous international awards. All three movies are blessed by the inspired work of acclaimed Taiwanese actor Sihung Lung, whom Lee lured out of retirement. Through Lee, the veteran actor was transformed into an international star. In the drama Pushing Hands, he plays a befuddled tai chi instructor who lands on the NYC doorstep of his Americanized son. In the farce Wedding Banquet, he plays the clueless father of a gay son who plans a lavish ceremony after his son, who can't come out of the closet to his traditional parents, announces a sham marriage. In the comedy of manners Eat Drink, he cooks up gourmet meals as head of a household where the lavish feasts are the only old-world traditions still being served. Even in these early works, Lee shows off a love of people (and their foibles) that makes his movies so universally accessible. With each film, Lee's style becomes more visually assured, while his perennial theme of familial conflict within society's strictures turns more subtle.
The director will not be in attendance, but local film experts will be on hand to introduce each film. Pushing Hands, 6:30 p.m. Friday, Wedding Banquet, 7 p.m. Saturday, Eat Drink Man Woman, 7 p.m. Sunday. Rice University, 6100 Main. For information, call 713-348-4882 or visit www.ricecinema.rice.edu. Free.
Fridays-Sundays. Starts: Feb. 19. Continues through Feb. 21, 2010