. . . and boy isn’t it funny and touching.
By Kevin Yu
Ang Lee’s 2005 film about homosexual lovers, Brokeback Mountain, won him an Oscar for Best Director. But 12 years before Brokeback, in 1993, Ang Lee has already made a movie about homosexual lovers, and it is, in my opinion, one of his best. The Wedding Banquet, a comedy about a gay from Taiwan living in New York, is Ang Lee’s second feature film, dealing with homosexual, cultural shock, and mixed-orientation marriage.
Wai-Tung leads a quite comfortable life in New York City with his partner Simon, managing a loft building. His parents back in Taiwan, having no idea of their son’s sexual orientation, are urging him to get married and have children. Such is a fairly traditional Chinese view on adult life: marriage and children, preferably a son. Wai-Tung proposes this marriage to one of his tenants, Wei-Wei, an artist currently out of job and on the brink of being sent back to China. A perfect idea! they think, so that Wei-Wei gets a green card which allows her to stay in the US, and Wai-Tung’s parents will stop bothering him anymore.
Things get out of hand when Wai-Tung’s parents suddenly announce that they’ll fly to NYC for his wedding. Wai-Tung’s life gets turned upside down: Wei-Wei moves into the house as his girlfriend, Simon becomes a guest, and every piece of decoration in the house that suggests his sexual orientation gets replaced. Now they are all waiting anxiously for this event to pass and everything returns to normal, but in a movie, sometimes in life too, things rarely return to normal.
Ang Lee’s first two feature films both deal with Chinese living in America. The clash of western and eastern culture became a common theme throughout his career, and his filmmaking style is said to be a combination of western and eastern perspectives. I love how this clash is portrayed in The Wedding Banquet. Wai-Tung’s parents are traditional Chinese, Simon is a native American, and Wai-Tung and Wei-Wei sit in the middle, bridging two cultures that are so different but also show promise of mutual understanding. They are all learning, negotiating, and trying to understand.
Mixed-orientation marriage is a hot debated topic on Chinese internet nowadays. People are heavily condemning this kind of marriage, especially for a gay man, trying to cover his sexual orientation from his family, marries a straight woman without telling her the truth and completely ruins her life. It is interesting to see how mixed-orientation marriage gets portrayed in a 1993 movie. I have to say, throughout the movie, I sympathize the most with Wei-Wei. While the ending of the movie is thought provoking and strangely heartwarming, I feel the least sure of Wei-Wei’s fate.
Another recommendation of old movie two weeks in a row. I’ll make sure to watch some new ones for my next blog!