China, Chinese, Chineseness, Chinese-Canadians (and by extension, the Chinese-American experience) have been on my mind a lot recently. Much of my interest has more to do with connecting to my own family background: hence, the creation of a “Finding My Roots” category in this blog.
Not surprisingly then, the profile of Ang Lee in the lastest issue (June 30) of The New Yorker caught my attention. The first Lee movie I saw was Eat Drink Man Woman. I was then surprised (but delighted) to learn that Sense and Sensibility was another of his films. I later found myself repeating the quip that Lee’s most famous film Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon was Sense and Sensibility with martial arts.
There’s a lot in the profile to which I reacted. Let me recount the easier-to-blog about matters and see whether I reach the more challenging materials. (In blogging, I find it a challenge not to do what I’m about to do: when faced with a rich source that provokes multiple and deep responses, I often do not have the resources of time or energy or courage to publicly respond; when I do react in my blog, it is often to point to the quirky, fun, delightful. My blog entry barely does the source justice, but if I wait to do it justice, I will have nothing to say.)
Back to matter at hand: I laughed in reading about a date between Ang Lee and his-wife-to-be Jane Lin (p. 76):
On that bus, Lee met his future wife, Jane Lin, an independent, outspoken graduate student in microbiology (on whom Lee later based aspects of the fierce, intrepid character Yu Shu Lien in “Crouching Tiger”). “I never pursued a woman,” Lee says, “She came and talked to me. She’s a good listener, and she has the smallest ego of anybody I know. I was a shy guy, but I was a future director–I had that ego thing and I wanted to express it. I couldn’t find anybody to listen to me. And there she was, interested in what I did.” Lin also remembers their meeting. “I could be a chair. I could be a bucket of water. It doesn’t matter, he just talks–about everything,” she says. “I fall asleep, I wake up, he’s still talking.”
Interestingly enough, Lee is also described in the following way: “Lee doesn’t hector; he doesn’t bluster; he doesn’t insiste on his own superiority; and he’s not materialistic….In fact, there is nothing conspicuous about Lee’s behavior but his talent. ‘He has the most quiet footprint, a tremendous humility,’ Hope says. ‘He once said to me, describing his process, that movies pass through him.'” (p. 72)
A major theme of John Lahr’s profile is the role of Lee’s Chinese/Taiwanese background on his work and his psychology. I’m still working through the piece, wondering whether Lee is caricatured/stereotyped in the profile or whether he is indeed as he is described….
More later perhaps.