Wednesday, March 12, 2008

from banquet to brokeback

a couple things crossed my mind as i was watching the wedding banquet. i felt everyone had some interesting comments to say about the film itself; i dont know if its just me, but i couldnt help but compare and contrast this movie to brokeback mountain all teh way through.

i dont know if ang lee directed any other movies with protagonists struggling with gay identity issues but it seemed interesting to me how these two pieces completely clash. i dont know why but it keeps coming back to that question that we asked on the first day -- is brokeback mountain authentic asian american art?

the two movies differ most obviously in the sense that wedding banquet is about a naturalized chinese man and brokemtn is about a couple midwestern cowboys. the second important difference is that ang lee wrote and directed wedding banquet whereas he only directed brokemtn, but i think comparing the two movies really reveals how ang uses the concepts of homosexuality intersecting with politics of race and ethnicity in Wedding Banquet.

when chiang quotes Ang in a movie review, Chiang explains how Ang describes The Wedding Banquet as a "comedy about identity." However, Chiang afterwards points out that "in Lee's remarks, sexuality is conspicuously absent from teh various categories of identity, an inidication that homosexuality is a sign for the very confusions of idenity that the film seeks to resolve" (279). This suggestion supports a feeling I had throughout watching Wedding Banquet that the movie almost uses homosexuality as a supplementary factor/issue that together with gender politics and american racial conflicts paints a picture showing what Chiang calls the modern transnational postmodern identity politics of the chinese family. in other words, wai tung's homosexuality is just a side element that further shows how confusing and messed up his life is in this postmodern capitalist world, whatever that's supposed to mean egh.

i'm not hating on Ang for not 'giving enough credit' or researching enough into queer studies and objectives in wedding banquet, because like other's have already pointed out, there were some things that seemed kind of lukewarm in terms of taking a queer activist stance in wai tung's character. he is deemed still pretty 'manly,' with very limited scenes of intimacy (his one hot kiss is mostly covered with an angle of the back of his head) with simon and in the end, triumphing through biology as a man that (though accidentally) overcomes wei wei's resistance and becomes a father. the film is a great work in terms of showing modern transnational identity dynamics, showing the complications in identity formation of a man who has deep historicaly roots in china and taiwan but struggles to come out as a man also deeply entrenched in middle class white american values (he is referred to as a yuppie by simon in the film).
My only deal was that since I have seen brokeback mountain first, and seen how powerful the message was about queerness and queer struggles in that, i felt wedding banquet almost didnt do enough or shied away from making too strong a statement about homosexuality.

but then again, i enjoyed the film as is and i cant imagine lee providing all that context plus all the stuff about asianness, the banquet, transnational identity, etc. all within a 2 hour film that was under a 400K budget.


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