There are people among us who exude such supple energy that sharing their air is fortifying. Ang Lee is such a person.
When I had the opportunity to interview him for FFWD weekly in advance of the premiere of Brokeback Mountain, he held himself with grace and patience amid the frenetic atmosphere of the Palliser Hotel lobby. He was unflappable as well-heeled broadcast journalists peppered him with questions about his affection for the Calgary Flames. By the time he sat down with me, he’d been going non stop since the early morning, yet he was calm and centered.
He appeared pleased when I asked him if he had sampled a regional delicacy, prairie oysters and became animated as he told me about a fraught dinner with Annie Proulx, the writer of the original story. Her disdain for all things Hollywood is well known, so he was anxious about convincing her to allow him to make the film. It worked out, but not before he consumed some cow testicles.
Unfortunately FFWD closed operations a few years ago, but on a recent trip to Calgary I was able to find a copy of the article in the local history room of the library. Reading it again after nearly 12 years is a splendid reminder that tenacity and resilience can lead to illuminating art.
Although the story is set in the American West from 1963-1983, as I’ve been reviewing some of the questions I asked Lee around sexuality, I realize how far we’ve come in Canada since the film was made in 2005. Gay marriage is legal and I live in Vancouver with rainbow sidewalks and one of the biggest Pride parades in North America. Oh, and the July 27th Georgia Straight cover is pretty rad.
Also notable: In 2013, I had the pleasure of directing a short film. Working with cinematic badass Melanie Jones (yes, I know two Melanie Jones) we were able to execute our shoot in my cramped West End apartment in two days (but the pre and post took much, much longer). Our star, Carmel Amit worked with Lee on his Woodstock movie, so we joked about one degree of Ang Lee. Looking back, it was one of the most invigorating creative experiences of my life and I do hope to make another film soon.
My favourite quote from the article: “We have to live with each other. We need patterns. We need laws. That’s why we need art, to fill that gap. To understand each other. To understand ourselves to each other. I think that’s the beauty of Annie’s writing. I tried to deliver that onscreen.”
Apologies for the scan lines and it may require some zooming in.