Ang Lee

b. 23 October, 1954, Pingtung County, Taiwan

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Ang Lee’s Fine Line Between East and West

Taiwan-born Ang Lee is that most unlikely of filmmakers: a man equally at home with Jane Austen or Marvel Comics, the American West or Qing Dynasty China, the family drama or myths of unrequited love. His appeal is broad, crossing high and low culture, East and West. Lee is the epitome of globalization and its effect on the film world. He is an outsider to his native Taiwan, having spent most of his adult life in the US, and an outsider to America, being foreign-born and raised in a far different culture. His films not only capture the essence of Chinese culture and family dynamics as skilfully as they do American life and iconography, but also express the commonalities and conflicts between the Eastern and Western traditions.

Lee is known mostly for his chameleon-like diversity whereby each film is an entirely different genre and subject from the previous one. However, every choice he makes further refines his singular exploration of the relationship between society and the individual, or outsider. When viewed in sequence, his work is remarkably consistent, just as are the films of Howard Hawks or Billy Wilder or the other great auteurs of the past. Despite such diverse subject matter, Lee always manages to find common themes in whatever material he chooses. He defines better than any other director the concept of globalization in cinema.

Since the first wave of German immigration into Hollywood in the 1930s, many filmmakers have gone from one country to another to live and work. Few, however, have explored the idea of multiculturalism as deeply or inherently as Lee, able to negotiate consistently back and forth between the two countries and two audiences. Though some films appeal more to the Chinese market, and others to the Western, Lee’s constant emphasis on bridging the gap and offering something for everyone is admirable. It has allowed him to create three of Hollywood’s unquestionable modern masterpieces, The Ice Storm (1997), Ride with the Devil (1999) and Brokeback Mountain (2005), as well as two of the greatest films in the Chinese language, Wo hu cang long (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, 2000) and Se, jie (Lust, Caution, 2007). Lee’s diversity of audience and subject matter, contrasted with his unity of theme and technique, make him one of the most unique filmmakers in cinema today.

Early Life

Born in southern Taiwan in 1954, Ang Lee was the son of a very traditional Chinese father who encouraged academic excellence and achievement in his children, something Ang never achieved in his early life. Lee Sheng became the principal of an illustrious high school, sending his sons there to excel. The family saw movies once a week, mostly Hollywood or Hong Kong films such as Li Hanxiang’s Liang Shan Bo yu Zhu Ying Tai (The Love Eterne, 1963). For Sheng, these films were mere entertainment, but for Ang they became an obsession and a goal. In college for film and theatre, he was influenced by American and European films, specifically Mike Nichols’ The Graduate (1967) and Ingmar Bergman’s Jungfrukällan (The Virgin Spring, 1960) (1), and he acted in theatre productions such as The Glass Menagerie, before making his first short film (2).

Lee then came to the United States to receive a Bachelor’s degree before attending New York University to achieve a Master’s degree in Film Production. He directed several shorts before completing his thesis film, Fen Jiexian (A Fine Line, 1985), about a Chinese-American girl and an Italian-American boy, winning the schools’ awards for Best Film and Best Director. Lee married Jane Lin, a microbiologist, and for the next six years he tried unsuccessfully to follow up on the achievement of his student film. Lee stayed home and raised his two sons, Haan and Mason, dreaming up ideas and writing screenplays for the future. He and his father were not on good terms, since Ang insisted on pursuing a disgraceful occupation in the arts. This relationship deeply informs all of his films, as each tries harder and harder to escape the shadow of ‘the father’, while simultaneously becoming him. In 1990, he entered two of his screenplays in the Taiwanese national screenwriting competition, and they ended up winning first and second place.

First Efforts: Dealing With ‘The Father’

Lee’s first-prize winning screenplay, for Tui shou (Pushing Hands, 1992), focuses on a Chinese tai qi master retiring to suburban New York to live with his son, grandson (played by Lee’s own son Haan) and American daughter-in-law. The film prefigures many of the themes that will run throughout Lee’s work – most importantly that of the outsider, Master Chu (Lung Sihung), reflecting on and highlighting the exclusivity of the society into which he has entered. The film opens with an extended sequence with little-to-no dialogue, contrasting the Eastern and Western daily routines of Master Chu and his daughter-in-law, each inhabiting a different mental space while sharing the same physical one.

Pushing Hands

Pushing Hands finds its strength when it allows Lung to dominate a scene. The sequence of his self-imposed exile as a dishwasher in New York City captures the alienating effects of American life on an outsider, while allowing the film to grow beyond the realm of the family and its few characters. Here we see the outsider entering into the established hierarchy of the Chinatown restaurant, and disrupting the social order by his ‘other-ness’, while the manager represents westernization in his materialistic concentration on how much monetary value each worker provides. In the end, the outsider’s journey ends not by trying to fit into society – living with his son in the Chinese manner – or by rebelling against society – fighting with mafia or police who are unable to remove him from the premises of the restaurant-but by finding a compromise –getting an apartment in the city, teaching tai qi to Chinese and Americans, and beginning a new relationship-learning how to accept his position as an outsider and still living his own life to its fullest satisfaction.

Crucial to the making of the film was James Schamus, Lee’s producing partner. The partnership has lasted throughout all ten films, with Schamus first as producer and later writing as well. Theirs is one of the most constant and fruitful collaborations in modern film, without which Lee may not have achieved the level of success he has. Having Schamus onboard also helped Lee’s earlier films by enhancing the Western aspects of the characters and settings.

In second-prize winner Xi yan (The Wedding Banquet, 1993), the outsider figure and the father are put at odds. The father (again Lung Sihung) is a retired Taiwanese general who wants nothing more than a grandson to carry on his family line, while the son, Wai-Tung (Winston Chao), is made an outsider by means of his sexuality, having to keep this alternate life in America hidden from his parents. The film defines homosexuality as an aspect of Western life, with a great deal of the comedy coming from his mother’s trying to find him a wife, and later, when she knows the truth, trying to find out how he was led ‘astray’ by his American lover Simon (Mitchell Lichtenstein) or by his time in the US.

The film centres on a sham marriage Wai-Tung organizes with his tenant, Wei-Wei (May Chin), in order to give her a green card and make his parents to leave him alone about marriage. When the parents show up in New York to attend the wedding, however, the false couple has to create a real life together. Wai-Tung is pulled in four different directions by the four people who have come to inhabit his home and his life, each expecting something different of him until he can no longer cope. It is through an act of forgiveness by the father, accepting Simon as Wai-Tung’s lover that the pressure is relieved and Wai-Tung finds his compromise.

Here, the father is seen as a burden on the son, who has to deal with his presence and his wishes. In the end, having accidentally made his ‘wife’ Wei-Wei pregnant allows him to fulfil his father’s expectations in a way he never imagined. The compromise that Wai-Tung reaches – himself, Simon, and Wei-Wei living together to raise the baby – again allows the outsider to remain an outsider (homosexual), without ignoring or rebelling against the society in which he lives.

Mature Films: Becoming ‘The Father’

Eat Drink Man Woman

In Yin shi nan nu (Eat Drink Man Woman, 1994), Lee begins a series of five films over the course of which he will both exorcise and become the father figure. In his first mature work, many plot strands are skilfully woven together, characters balanced off one another in a self-described ‘cubist’ filmmaking technique that he will continue to use in The Ice Storm and Hulk (2003). (3) The world-building that makes Lee’s films so rich is displayed here for the first time. This time, the world is that of modern Taipei, a place that felt quite foreign to Lee upon returning there to film. The Yasujiro Ozu-like story of master chef Chu who is trying to hold on to his three daughters builds its plot in an overlapping manner with each event placed in a sequence to cause reflection upon the preceding events. This structure gives the film a very different feel when compared to the more straightforward storytelling in the first two films, and anticipates the complexities of plot in the later ones.

Each of the daughters feels, in her own way, that she is an outsider: eldest Jia-Jen (Yang Kuei-Mei), because her traditional values feel out of place in the modern world of Taipei; middle Jia-Chien (Wu Chien-Lien), since she has only ever wanted the one thing her father wouldn’t let her have, a life as a chef; and youngest Jia-Ning (Wang Yu-Wen), because her modern life (working at Wendy’s, becoming pregnant before marriage) doesn’t fit with her father’s values. The father here is a more sympathetic figure, always wanting to serve others the only way he knows how: food. He makes feasts for his daughters regularly and prefers for them to have a better life than his own. Lee is no longer simply burdened by the father, but has not yet reached the point of communication with him. The family tries to communicate through their elaborate weekly dinner rituals. The dinner table conversations are full of half statements and comments made to disguise the speakers’ true feelings, and, when a family member brings any kind of important news to the table, it only makes the others unhappy.

The resolution in Eat Drink Man Woman again comes through compromise between tradition and modernity, only this time it is Chu who takes the biggest step, surprising his daughters by marrying a family friend many years his junior. The father finally asserts his own desires, turning out to be very modern himself. Thus he integrates each of the daughters into the family and society by being more daring in his own choices than they have in theirs. This is the last time Lee will deal directly with the dichotomy between Chinese and Western culture. In later films, it will be more subtly presented within the philosophies of the characters.

His next film, Sense and Sensibility (1995), applies Lee’s established family dynamic to a new setting: that of Jane Austen’s English countryside. Though the father is hardly seen in the film, his absence is powerful, as his death sets the narrative into motion. This is the first film adapted from an existing literary source and it remains closer to the original than his subsequent adaptations. Lee would eventually become a master at cinematic adaptation, converting a written story into its most cinematic form, and creating a separate work of art that stands alongside its source and complements it.

The film contrasts the reserved Elinor Dashwood (writer Emma Thompson) with her impulsive sister, Marianne (Kate Winslet), as they navigate British society hoping to find suitable husbands after the loss of their fortune through the Will of their father. The daughters are again outsiders, here due to their loss of status. They face the adversity brought on by the contempt of the aristocracy and the desperation of troubled love. This is enhanced by the intricate societal rules of the time that prevent experimentation of the sort practiced by the daughters in Eat Drink Man Woman. The contrast between these behavioural codes and the desires of the daughters who must hold their true feelings inside is similar to the tradition/modernity conflict in the previous films.

The compromise for the Dashwood sisters rests on their acceptance of men who are also societal outsiders, though they arrive at their decisions in different ways. Marianne gives up her romantic notions of dying for love and realizes the value of what has always been in front of her, the calm kindness of Colonel Brandon (Alan Rickman), while Elinor finds that the man she loved deep in her heart would gladly join her outside of society. The outsiders find their contentment by changing the way they accept or reject their surroundings and place, or lack thereof, in the social order.

The Ice Storm

With The Ice Storm (1997), Lee created his first masterpiece, combining the societal analysis and period detail of Sense and Sensibility with the family drama of Eat Drink Man Woman to achieve his most subtle portrait of a family on the brink of crisis. This black-comedy-turned-tragedy follows the lives of two New England families, the Hoods and the Carvers, over Thanksgiving week in 1973. More than any of Lee’s other films, The Ice Storm is a film of texture-clothing, wallpaper, bed sheets, iced windows, the leaf-covered forest floor-the details of the objects and period building connotative meaning. The film’s visual palette is also essential to its mood, the muted greens and blues seeping from both interiors and exteriors accentuating the aimlessness of the characters.

The characters in this film are all outsiders, to both their own hearts and to the society in which they live. Many scenes are silent or have little dialogue, and when the characters do speak they are only mouthing the routine words used to conceal the true emotions underneath. Lee will return to this technique in Brokeback Mountain and Lust, Caution. The confusion of the characters is subtly related to the political, economic, and moral crises which America felt at the time, and the film illustrates very clearly how we are affected by our times and how we, in turn, affect them. Ben Hood (Kevin Kline), perhaps the most aimless of the film’s self-interested parents, is the compass by which we read the other characters: catching his daughter with the neighbours’ son, because he has come to the home in service of his own affair with the mother, he has no moral ground upon which to discipline his daughter, yet his carrying her home through the woods afterward shows everything that went unsaid about their familial bond.

The characters of the film are given salvation from the moral abyss into which they are slipping by the death of Mikey (Elijah Wood), the one character who truly does not belong in the world he has been given. He is the ultimate outsider, not able to fit into his society in any way, only able to resolve his quest when he reaches his perfect world – a world free of the physical and moral ‘molecules’ that he believes infect ours – in the ice storm. It is natural that his body is found by Ben, the father who needs more than anything an ‘event’ in his life to create forward momentum.

The Ice Storm takes another step in Lee’s identification with the father, whose rebirth as both an individual and as a leader of his family is witnessed in intimate detail. The finale of the film brings us the first redemptive father in Lee’s work – not only uniting his family, caring for them and serving them (as did the father in Eat Drink Man Woman), but taking their sins unto himself, compiling them with his own, and seeking forgiveness and atonement for his entire household.

Ride with the Devil

Ride with the Devil (1999), Lee’s Civil War film, focuses on two men made outsiders, one by the choices he makes, the other by the very nature of the times in which he lives. For Lee, war doesn’t exist in a vacuum or out on some far away battlefield, but disrupts the lives of everyday people who happen to have the misfortune of living through it. Jake Roedel (Tobey Maguire) is a southern boy who joins up with the militia in Missouri taking the war town to town until all of the ‘abolitionists’ have seen the ends of their gun barrels. Daniel Holt (Jeffrey Wright) is a former slave serving the man who bought his freedom. The film’s structure is loose, following the group as they become involved with one event after another, Roedel slowly becoming closer friends with Holt and coming to question his dedication to the southern cause.

The figure of the father is here again felt strongest through absence. It is after the death of the father of Jack Bull Chiles (Skeet Ulrich), Roedel’s best friend, that the two boys enter the fighting. Roedel has no communication with his own father after joining the militia, the lack of approval only increasing his determination, echoing Lee’s own quest to make films despite his father’s shame. Later, Roedel performs an act of kindness when he recognizes one of the northern hostages taken by the group as a local acquaintance, letting him free. The man repays his favour by immediately seeking out and killing Roedel’s father. The death of his father, instead of hardening him, is the action that begins his path from idealism toward uncertainty, scepticism and eventually, contentment with the abandonment not just of his cause, but also of all causes.

Scenes of battle are alternated with times of rest and recovery at a sympathetic farm, during which segments the film becomes a domestic drama. Roedel allows his attraction to pregnant Sue Lee (Jewel) to flourish, while Holt becomes like a brother. These scenes feature some of the most poetic dialogue of Lee’s career, showing the formation of a new family, with Roedel as the father. He accepts that his life is with Sue Lee and her baby, and faces down his rival only when it becomes necessary in order to defend her, in the end rejecting violence. Holt goes off to search for his enslaved mother, while Roedel, having done penance for his guilt over the death of his father, has now become a father himself-no longer living life for himself or his false cause, but for his family.

Lee went on to make one of his most popular and critically acclaimed films, Wo hu cang long (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, 2000). This wu xia film set during the Qing Dynasty features a blend of Chinese cultural elements that Lee included in order to introduce them to a western audience. Having grown up fascinated by this inherently Chinese genre, Lee naturally wanted to tell such a tale, making his personal mark on wu xia film. The film parallels two stories: one a young love, the other a repressed romance between two famous swordfighters. Structurally, the film winds around a powerful sword that passes through the hands of the various characters, with a long flashback in the centre in homage to the structure of wu xia novels. (4)

Three of the four major characters are outsiders by choice, taking lifestyles that don’t allow them much connection to the rest of the world around them. The fourth, ‘hidden dragon’ Jen (Zhang Ziyi), is trying to choose her own life in a strict world that won’t let her. The option of settling down is never presented as one that will satisfy her, and her controversial choice at the film’s end (prefiguring the choice of Lust, Caution’s Wong Chia Chi (Tang Wei)) alienates her completely from all aspects of society.

There is palpable romantic tension between Li Mu Bai (Chow Yun Fat) and Yu Shu Lien (Michelle Yeoh), barred from each other by the warrior codes of Jianghu, which entail a debt of honour owed to Shu Lien’s dead fiancé. The warriors don’t come to realize the full force of their affection until it is threatened by the impetuous and careless Jen. She has been under the secret tutelage of Jade Fox (Cheng Pei Pei), an enemy of Mu Bai, but has gained far more skill than her master ever will. Lee once again returns to the darker emotional palate of The Ice Storm, as jealousy, greed and sexual repression take hold of even the noblest characters.

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon

The film’s most overt father figure is Mu Bai himself, though his true intentions toward Jen are never clear, especially given the history in his school of masters taking advantage of young women eager to learn their martial secrets. He is surely responsible, however, and wants her to learn to control her skills through proper supervision. As a father figure to Jen, he also puts pressure on her, driving her further away, and, only through his grave injury and sacrificial death, is he able to reform her. The father has become an entirely beneficent being, a true force of good leading all those around him to personal triumph. This is also the only time he speaks his true feelings for Shu Lien, freeing her to love him in death so that she can go on living without him.

Jen’s leap at the film’s end, ambiguous as to whether she is committing suicide (completing the tragedy) or flying away from the life she has known (attaining her heart’s wish), is a daring ending for a daring film. As Lee’s attitude towards the father becomes one of acceptance, identification and admiration, his outsiders no longer have hope for reconciliation with their societies. They have now learned that only the individual is important, and remaining true to oneself outweighs any other concerns.

Hulk (2003) was a project to which Lee devoted three full years, and was his largest film, budgeted at $137 million. (5) It was here, in his most commercial film, that Lee finally dealt with the father head-on, turning a comic book superhero movie into a psychological portrait of a son cursed by his father’s pride. The patterned imagery in the film-tree roots, water marked rocks and dunes signifies the patterns created by genetics, and by the physical and mental qualities passed on from one generation to the next. The radical editing style is the closest anyone has yet come to representing the medium of comics on film. Bruce Banner (Eric Bana) has been infected by the genetic manipulation experiments of his Father (Nick Nolte), so that, when one of his tests goes wrong, the radiation causes a transformation into a giant green being that feeds off of anger.

He never knew his Father, who returns and tries to restart his old work, soon becoming genetically unstable and so depending on Bruce – trying to manipulate and take his power. The father here is again of the Chinese mould: he expects his son to take care of him, even if that means he is a burden. In this case, the burden is life-threatening. As Bruce discovers more about himself and what he has been born with, his desire to break free of it increases, further powering the Hulk. The two can no longer co-exist, and the son ends up destroying his father not by denying him the power he desires, but by giving it to him and overwhelming him with it. The son returns the father’s expectations of greatness by showing off the power inherent in his being from birth, in the same way Lee proved to his father that he could find true success through the artistic talent that was his birthright.

New Directions

Brokeback Mountain

After three exhausting years spent making a Hollywood film that underperformed at the box office, Lee almost retired. Upon seeing Hulk, Lee’s father for the first time approved of his career as a filmmaker. “He told me to just put on my helmet and keep on going” (6), the approval powering Lee to go back to the basics of filmmaking to create Brokeback Mountain (2005). This film and the one that follows represent a new path for Lee, and, despite the difference in language, genre and time-period, serve as reflections of one another. Both adapted from concise short stories into near-perfect films displaying two inverse possibilities resulting from heart-wrenching attraction and love, Brokeback Mountain and Lust, Caution have been described by Lee as visions of “heaven and hell” (7), respectively: one about a love that lasts a lifetime but never finds expression, the other about a love that lasts only a moment, but destroys lives.

Brokeback Mountain explores the effects of a suppressed love on each of the lovers, as well as on their families and relationships. The bond between Ennis Del Mar (Heath Ledger) and Jack Twist (Jake Gyllenhaal) that ties the film together is one that can never be accepted by society, casting the two participants as outsiders. Both men have other lives, yet keep returning to each other cyclically over the years. The film poetically renders the uneducated, rough language of its characters in order to express the hidden meanings in their words. Both men marry and lead ‘normal’ lives, yet they continually use the place of Brokeback Mountain to escape from the pressures of society and allow the truest expression of their freedom.

Having dealt the father figure its final blow in Hulk, the men here don’t have any connection to their fathers, though their presence is still felt in the shadows. Ennis’ deceased father, like David Banner, has given a curse to his son, forcing him to witness a terrible cruelty as a twisted ‘lesson’ about the fate of gay men. It is perhaps the scarring from this act that makes Ennis reluctant to give in to any of Jack’s pleas for a more permanent relationship, forcing their love to remain suppressed. Jack’s disapproving father makes a powerful appearance near the film’s end and, through his reluctant acceptance of Ennis as a figure in his son’s life, allows Ennis to find the hidden shirt, releasing the flood of emotions that he kept inside while Jack was alive and allowing the love to survive even after death. During the early stages of production of Brokeback Mountain, Lee’s own father passed away.

The film is startlingly unique in its presentation of love and became even more of a cultural phenomenon than Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. A huge financial success despite its controversial subject matter, it won Lee a deserved Best Director Academy Award, making him the first Asian to receive it. It was undoubtedly the film event of its year (by some claims, it is the most awarded film of all time), and brought Lee recognition in the west not only as an ‘Asian’ director, but simply as a film director.

Lust, Caution (Se, Jie, 2007), Lee’s most mature film to date, tells of Wong Chia Chi, who is part of a resistance cell during World War II, infiltrating the home of collaborator Mr. Yee (Tony Leung Chiu Wai) in order to seduce him into her friends’ assassination plot. Based on a story by Eileen Chang, the delicate film-noir atmosphere of the film builds as Chia Chi’s heart and soul become more tied up in her role as Mrs. Mak, a young businessman’s bored wife. The film expands on the brief story immensely, each added detail helping to create a unique work that stands strong alongside the original, a true cinematic adaptation.

Lust, Caution

For the first time in his career, Lee has made a film in which there is no father figure. After the death of his own father, and the closure brought to the theme in Brokeback Mountain, Lee was free from this influence for the first time. The theme of the outsider remains, however, but is presented in a different light. Chia Chi is a willing outsider, making herself into a different person through acting her role, becoming more Mrs. Mak and less Chia Chi, eventually losing the sense of which self is the true one. The theme of acting and role-playing recurs throughout, whether it is on a stage, at home, or in bed. The film faced controversy due to its transformation of the story’s undercurrent of sexuality into a series of explicit sex scenes that were cut in China and caused the MPAA to give the film an NC-17 rating. This sealed its fate in the US, but it was a sensation across Asia, confronting political and sexual issues head-on in a way not usually seen.

Lust, Caution slowly builds its power until the crucial finale, in which Chia Chi sees the truth of herself and of Mrs. Mai, and makes a decision that gives validation to her feelings even as it destroys her. This scene, set in a jewellery store, compares with the finales of The Ice Storm and Brokeback Mountain as the most powerful Lee has yet filmed, with great tension created by mere whispers and subtle changes of expression in the actors’ faces. The scene is almost entirely an alternation of two close shots of the couple, Yee and Chia Chi’s love finally expressed through the very words that condemn their affair forever. It is the greatest scene in Tony Leung’s illustrious career, with more emotional tonality than most actors show in an entire film.

Lee’s future journeys will bring us even more insight into the outsiders of our world, whether forced onto that path or having chosen it. Surely, the father will show up again, though Lee’s own issues seem to have been worked out through his films. Subjects for future films may range from the organizing of Woodstock to a romantic comedy, and there will surely be more Chinese language films as well. Lee continues to tread the path between the world’s superpower and its rising power, and in this century, there is no better place to be.


  1. Michael Berry, “Ang Lee: Freedom in Film”, in Michael Berry (Ed.) Speaking in Images: Interviews with Contemporary Chinese Filmmakers (New York: Columbia University Press, 2005), p. 325.
  2. Whitney Crothers Dilley, The Cinema of Ang Lee: The Other Side of the Screen (London: Wallflower Press, 2007), p. 6.
  3. Berry, p. 337.
  4. Ibid, p. 344.
  5. The Internet Movie Database, “Box office / business for Hulk (2003)”, accessed 13 May 2008.
  6. Berry, p. 336.
  7. Ang Lee, speaking on “Ang Lee and James Schamus at the Museum of the Moving Image”, special feature on the DVD of The Ice Storm (Criterion Collection, 2007).


As Director

Xingqiliu Xiawu de Lansan (Laziness of a Saturday Afternoon, short, 1976)

Chen Maquan de Yitian (A Day in the Life of Chen Maquan, short, 1978)

Zhui Da (The Runner, short, 1980)

Cuo Yishujia (Beat the Artist, short, 1981)

Wo Ai Zhongguo Cai (I Love Chinese Food, short, 1981)

Yinliang Hu Ban (Shades of the Lake, short, 1982)

Fen Jiexian (A Fine Line, short, 1985)

Tui shou (Pushing Hands, 1992) – also writer, producer

Xi yan (The Wedding Banquet, 1993) – also writer, producer

Yin shi nan nu (Eat Drink Man Woman, 1994) – also writer

Sense and Sensibility (1995)

The Ice Storm (1997) – also producer

Ride With the Devil (1999)

Wo hu cang long (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, 2000) – also producer

The Hire: Chosen (short, 2001)

Hulk (2003)

Brokeback Mountain (2005)

Se, Jie (Lust, Caution) (2007) – also producer

Taking Woodstock (2009)

Life of Pi  (2012)

Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk (2016)


Joe’s Bed-Study Barbershop: We Cut Heads (Spike Lee, 1983) – first assistant director

Shao nu xiao yu (aka Siao Yu, Sylvia Chang, 1995) – writer, producer

Tortilla Soup (Maria Ripoll, 2001) – writer of earlier screenplay, Eat Drink Man Woman

One Last Ride (Tony Vitale, 2003) – executive producer


Chris Berry, “Wedding Banquet: A Family (Melodrama) Affair”, in Chris Berry (Ed.), Chinese Films in Focus: 25 New Takes (London: British Film Institute, 2003).

Michael Berry, “Ang Lee: Freedom in Film”, in Michael Berry (Ed.), Speaking in Images: Interviews with Contemporary Chinese Filmmakers (New York: Columbia University Press, 2005).

Felicia Chan, “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: Cultural Migrancy and Translatability”, in Chris Berry (Ed.), Chinese Films in Focus: 25 New Takes (London: British Film Institute, 2003).

Eileen Chang (story), Wang Hui Ling and James Schamus (screenplay), Lust, Caution: The Story, the Screenplay, and the Making of the Film (New York: Pantheon Books, 2007).

Wei Ming Dariotis and Eileen Fung, “Breaking the Soy Sauce Jar: Diaspora and Displacement in the Films of Ang Lee”, in Sheldon Hsiao-Peng Lu (Ed.), Transnational Chinese Cinemas: Identity, Nationhood, Gender (Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press, 1997).

Whitney Crothers Dilley, The Cinema of Ang Lee: The Other Side of the Screen (London: Wallflower Press, 2007).

Jennifer Jay, “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: (Re)packaging Chinas and Selling the Hybridized Culture and Identity in an Age of Globalization”, The Canadian Review of Comparative Literature, 30, Nos 3-4 (2003).

Ang Lee, Eat Drink Man Woman – The Wedding Banquet: Two Films by Ang Lee (Woodstock, New York: The Overlook Press, 1994).

Cynthia W. Liu, “’To Love, Honor, and Dismay’: Subverting the Feminine in Ang Lee’s Trilogy of Resuscitated Patriarchs”, Hitting Critical Mass: A Journal of Asian American Cultural Criticism, 3, No. 1 (1996).

Ma Sheng-Mei, “Ang Lee’s Domestic Tragicomedy: Immigrant Nostalgia, Exotic/Ethnic Tour, Global Market”, Journal of Popular Culture, 30, No. 1 (1996).

Gina Marchetti, “The Wedding Banquet: Global Chinese Cinema and the Asian American Experience”, in Darrell Y. Hamamoto and Sandra Liu (Eds), Countervisions: Asian American Film Criticism (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2000).

Rick Moody, The Ice Storm (New York: Little, Brown and Company, 1994).

Annie Proulx (story), Larry McMurtry and Diana Ossana (screenplay), Brokeback Mountain: Story to Screenplay (New York: Scribner, 2005).

James Schamus (story), John Turman, Michael France and James Schamus (screenplay), Hulk: The Illustrated Screenplay (New York: Newmarket Press, 2003).

James Schamus, The Ice Storm: The Shooting Script (New York: Newmarket Press, 1997).

James Schamus, Ride with the Devil (London: Faber and Faber, 1999).

Emma Thompson, Sense and Sensibility: The Screenplay and Diaries (New York: Newmarket Press, 1995).

Ti Wei, “Generational/Cultural Contradiction and Global Incorporation: Ang Lee’s Eat Drink Man Woman”, in Chris Berry and Fei Lu (Eds), Islands on the Edge: Taiwan New Cinema and After (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2005).

Wang Hui Ling, James Schamus and Tsai Kuo Jung (screenplay), Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: A Portrait of the Ang Lee Film (New York: Newmarket Press, 2000).

Emilie Yueh-Yu Yeh and Darrell William Davis, Taiwan Film Directors: A Treasure Island (New York: Columbia University Press, 2005).

Articles in Senses of Cinema

Ride with the Devil by Noel King

Love and Swords: The Dialectics of Martial Arts Romance by Stephen Teo

“We Kicked Jackie Chan’s Ass!”: An Interview with James Schamus by Stephen Teo

Haunted by Memories: Brokeback Mountain by Dennis Grunes

Web Resources

Philosophical analysis of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon

Interview with Lee in The New York Times

Insightful analysis of Hulk as Œdipal drama in Film Interntational

Hulk and the Hero’s journey

Great site for Brokeback Mountain reviews, news and cultural impact

Analysis of Brokeback Mountain in Jump Cut


About The Author

David Minnihan is a freelance writer and film graduate from the Midwestern USA.

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