Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Ang Lee

Ang Lee, Toronto, Sept. 7, 2007

THIS SHOOT WAS MY SECOND ATTEMPT AT GETTING A PORTRAIT OF ANG LEE. A decade previous, back when I worked at NOW magazine, a request for a shoot with the director had been denied at the last minute, and I had felt frustrated ever since. I had been a big fan of Ang Lee since his Austen movie adaptation Sense & Sensibility had been a breakout hit, and had proved that he was more than just a director of particularly Chinese stories.

Since then, The Ice Storm and Ride With The Devil had confirmed his remarkable versatility, and made me an even bigger fan. There aren't a lot of masterful directors working today, but I'd put Lee among their small number, even though I still think his Oscar nominations (with two wins out of three) are for the wrong pictures.

Ang Lee, Toronto, Sept. 7, 2007

By 2007 I'd figured out how to use the very dim, peculiar light in the rooms at the Hotel Intercontinental on Bloor. The extreme drop off into shadow and necessity of using the adjacent walls of the very small, dark rooms pushed my style even further away from the Penn-inspired work I'd done for NOW in the '90s.

These shots are probably as perfect an example of whatever typifies my "hotel room" style as I'll find in all the work I did for the free daily, and the fact that they're really just small variations on a single pose underlines the unvarying conditions of those shoots: They were usually done under intense pressure, and often in less than a minute.

Lee was in Toronto promoting Lust, Caution, one of his periodic returns to Chinese stories that seem to be the only constant in a career that's included a superhero film (Hulk), his "gay cowboy movie" (Brokeback Mountain), a docudrama about the Woodstock Music Festival (Taking Woodstock) and a metaphysical fantasy film based on a book by an annoying Canadian (The Life of Pi). His Wiki bio teases future projects that include a sci-fi film and a movie about the 1975 Muhammad Ali vs. Joe Frazier match that was supposed to be filmed in 3-D. It's a mark of Lee's talent that even his failures are more interesting than most blockbusters.

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