Sunday, March 9, 2008

Some ruminations on The Wedding Banquet

Before I begin, I have to confess that I had watched this movie before taking this class and I love it; the first time I saw it was on Bravo (before the Project Runway era, so whatever that means as far as analyzing The Wedding Banquet). In fact, I actually own the movie so I’ve been looking forward to this week for awhile. For the most part, I agree with Mark Chiang’s “Coming Out into the Global System: Postmodern Patriarchies and Transnational Sexualities in The Wedding Banquet”. Nevertheless, I would like to use this blog entry as a vehicle to discuss the points that I either disagreed with him or found to be weak.

Where I differ from Chiang’s reading of the film is that the film cannot be only just understood in a national/Global scale but also at the human level. I found Chiang’s insistence of the generic-ness of the film to be a shallow reading. I found the film to be very individualized since the film is imbued with not only just the story of Ang Lee’s friend but also that in this film, Pushing Hand, and Eat Drink Man Woman, Lee has woven in his relationship with his father, according to the special feature “A Forbidden Passion” on the movie. If I may inject the subject into this analysis, I believe the scene between Wai Tung’s father and Simon in which the father gives Simon the envelopment is a very touching scene and demands that you understand the film not on Taiwanese-Chinese/East-West or other transnational relationships but rather a scene between two human beings. By being so individualized, the film is able speak to a larger audience and is able to become national/transnational.

Nevertheless, my biggest problem with the movie is the development of Wei Wei’s character. In this respect, I agree with Chiang’s reading of the film that Wei Wei represents women and labor that are subordinated in the hybridity of the transnational and the national. Furthermore, the movie upholds patriarchy on both the global and human level. But, Lee makes a very interesting point at the end of “A Forbidden Passion” in which he says, “You relate to the other horizontally, and vertically you come from somewhere.” Therefore, may suggest that Wei Wei’s character may be looking to make a connection by keeping the baby. I still found, however, her submission into being an object to be used by the patriarchy (note the scene when Wai Tung’s father says goodbye to her). A quick note, I also found the movie to be a little disjointed in that the first half up to the actual banquet did not sync with the second half.

If I may deviate for a second, this same reassertion of patriarchy is what I found most disturbing about Enter the Dragon. Looking over the titles of the blog entries others made for the movie, many dealt with remasculating the Asian male or some variation. By giving (back?) the Asian male “masculinity” assumes that femininity (or the Other) is somehow less.

Returning back to The Wedding Banquet, let us examine the film more on the personal level. For me, these are the questions that arise from watching the film: What does it mean when ethnicity or race intersects sexuality? What would have happened if Simon were not an American or at least not white? What is the significance of this movie being nominated for an Academy Award (even winning the Golden Bear at the Berlin Film Festival)? Who watches (consumes) this movie? I defer once more to the great Roger Ebert when he says, “What makes the film work is the underlying validity of the story, the way the filmmakers don't simply go for melodrama and laughs, but pay these characters their due. At the end of the film, I was a little surprised how much I cared for them.” Ultimately, the film works on both levels since it is really the story of the five people interacting with each other but by its insistence on Taiwan through the multiple references the movie opens itself to a larger examination of transnationalism.

-Christopher Huynh

No comments: