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Tag Archives: Ang Lee

Brokeback Mountain

It’s summer in Wyoming in 1963. Two young men are hired as ranch hands to herd the sheep on Brokeback Mountain and bring them down to lowland pastures for the winter. Ennis Del Mar (played by Heath Ledger) is an experienced ranch hand and Jack Twist (by Jake Gyllenhaal) is enchanted by the “legend” of a cowboy lifestyle and is an aspiring rodeo bull rider. They start the job and head up into the mountains on what they expect to be an uneventful, quiet and lonely couple of months. But they soon recognize something in each other and strike up a familiar camaraderie. Over the weeks of the isolated trek, their friendship clumsily develops into a deep and confusing love. Presently, the summer and the job comes to an end and once down from the mountain, Ennis marries his fiance Alma (by Michelle Williams) and settles into married life, while Jack returns to the rodeo and marries Lureen (by Anne Hathaway). A few years later, Jack is restless and he reconnects with Ennis, which rekindles their relationship. Things are still strong between them and although it gets complicated and has its ups and downs, they stay in touch throughout their lives as their marriages change and their worlds intersect. Even though years have passed, their community still holds strong views and this demands that they constantly hide their true feelings from those around them. This enduring love continues though – until it reaches an inevitable and tragic conclusion.

The magnificent vistas of the Wyoming high country provide a jaw-droppingly consistently beautiful backdrop to this beautifully told story. The wonderful connection of these two souls, who both found meaningful, life-long companionship in the most unlikely place is universal. Take out the fact that it is two guys and just think about two people who find deep and enduring love – it’s a very moving tale. The performances are exquisite. Heath Ledger brings such depth to his role as Ennis – with his marvellous and curious speech and his unique mannerisms, he is terse – to say the least. He received a BAFTA for this performance. Contrasted with Jack Twist, the more sensitive, romantic and relationship-focussed of the two. Jake Gyllenhaal is fabulous in this role. Together, their chemistry, balance and complimentarity is sublime. This is a gritty, real story – the wives have tough lives with these two guys and both Michelle Williams and Anne Hathaway should take a bow for their work here. Everything about these performances is good. Ang Lee is masterful at getting the best of the people, their dialogue, the surrounding landscape and the cinematography. Together this ensemble is outstanding. No surprise whatsoever then that at the 2006 Academy Awards (Oscars), the movie was awarded with Best Achievement in Directing, Writing (Adapted Screenplay), Music (Original Score) and Golden Globe awards for Best Motion Picture (Drama), Director, Screenplay and Original Song and also BAFTAs for Best Lead Actor, Supporting Actress (Michelle Williams), Cinematography and Editing. A fantastic effort and very well deserved by everyone involved. The movie screenplay was adapted from a short story “Brokeback Mountain” by E Annie Proulx.

Made in 2005. Directed by Ang Lee

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Posted by on January 17, 2014 in Movies

 

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Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (Wo hu cang long)

In Qing Dynasty China, legendary zen warrior Li Mu Bai (played by Chow Yun Fat) returns to Beijing after a period of meditation. Famous throughout China for his adventures, Li tasks fellow fighter Yu Shu Lien (by Michelle Yeoh) with the safe delivery of his treasured 400 year old sword “Green Destiny” to a trusted friend. She does, but the sword is stolen and Yu is witness to a mysterious martial arts Master making an escape with it. She is suspicious of a young aristocrat Jen (by ZiYi Zhang) who is in Court to prepare for her wedding to a nobleman. Although she seems sweet, there is something strange about Jen and her curious governess (by Pei-Pei Cheng), so Yu befriends Jen, who admires Yu’s strength, skill and independence. She confirms that Jen is somehow mixed up in the disappearance of Green Destiny. Li and Yu must find the missing sword and Li seeks revenge for the death of his Master by his arch-enemy Jade Fox. He is convinced Fox is at the heart of this mystery – so is there a connection between Jen and Jade Fox? Li and Yu must search and bring the treasured Green Destiny back to its rightful owner, all the while denying the love that has burned in each of them for years ….

Yet again, Ang Lee has produced an exquisitely crafted film. Qing Dynasty China is reproduced magnificently here and the components of martial arts action, mysticism, culture and the scenic grandeur of ancient China are presented to create a well-balanced and beautiful experience for the eyes. The soundtrack, too, is magnificent and it supports the unfolding grand story very well. I understand that director Lee worked with a master fight choreographer (Yuen Wo Ping) to create the entertaining, smooth and well made fight sequences; nobody could deny their flow and athleticism, coupled with appropriate use of special effects to create each of the elegant interactions. Just go with this – it’s sheer fantasy and healthy food for the mind, based on the novel by Wang DuLu.

Made in 2000. Directed by Ang Lee.

 
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Posted by on March 5, 2013 in Movies

 

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Sense and Sensibility

In southwest England in the 1790’s, Elinor Dashwood (played by Emma Thompson) and her sister Marianne (by Kate Winslet) are young spinster sisters. Elinor is demure and sensible, whereas Marianne is expressive and passionate. They are both at the right age to marry (although Elinor is getting a little “long in the tooth”) and they spend the Season attending social occasions and greeting gentleman callers in the search for a suitable husband. When their father, Mr Dashwood, dies, he must leave the bulk of his estate to the son by his first marriage, so the young women with their mother – the second Mrs Dashwood (by Gemma Jones) – and younger sister Margaret (by Emilie Francois) are pushed out of their home and must rely on the support family for food and shelter. The sisters’ lack of fortune depletes their attractiveness for marriage and the parade of eligible bachelors narrows somewhat. During this upheaval, we meet the dashing but unprincipled Willoughby (by Greg Wise), timid but rich Edward Ferrars (by Hugh Grant) and steady but boring.Colonel Brandon (by Alan Rickman). The girls’ interractions with these gentlemen – all with the clear intent to create partnerships (rather than enjoy romance or love) – are played out over two or three social seasons. Of course, the path to true love doesn’t run smoothly for the sisters and we experience their emotional trials and challenges as they traverse the tricky societal norms, until each finally finds true love, a suitable marriage partner and the promise of happiness ever after.

This movie is a very good period adaptation of Jane Austen’s first novel. It is a delightful story and the characters demonstrate the wonderful dilemmas created by the social rules of the time, coupled with the real emotions that each must find some way to confine in order to achieve social acceptance. The script for this was written by Emma Thompson and she has done a marvellous job as the production has eloquent use of English language and some wonderful banter. Both Emma Thompson and Kate Winslet play their characters beautifully, with subtlety and naturalness. The three key males are very well done. Hugh Grant’s creation of Edward Ferrar’s is particularly heart-warming – he is such a caring and gentle soul (but this seemed to be a common role for him at that stage). Alan Rickman plays his character very straight and dry, which I assume is the way Austen has written him. Willoughby is a rogue and a heart-breaker and Greg Wise is great in this role.  All performances are good and the movie itself is made beautifully.

Made 1995: Directed by Ang Lee

 
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Posted by on March 6, 2012 in Movies

 

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