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  • Writer's pictureEllen Cheshire

Ang Lee and Me

Updated: Jun 1, 2023

Today is Ang Lee's birthday, and as his films have been a big part of my life for the past 20 years (and this year in particular) I thought I'd take a few moments to outline my long-held interest Lee's extraordinary body of work.

2000 was a big year for an Ang Lee fan such as me, Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon burst onto our screens, and the editor (Paul Duncan) who had commissioned John Ashbrook and I to write a book on The Coen Brothers for their Pocket Essentials series felt that there would now be enough traction for an examination of Lee’s films. Woo hoo! This was particularly momentous as it would be the first book published on Ang Lee, who at that point had directed seven feature films.

In the wake of Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, the Barbican Centre curated a double bill of a documentary on New Taiwanese Cinema and Lee’s second feature film The Wedding Banquet and Ang Lee was there for a Q&A. As I had worked for the Barbican Centre a few years early, the Head of Cinema Robert Rider invited me to a small drinks reception afterwards where I got to have a quick chat with Lee and let him know that I was writing a book on him. He was, as you would imagine, gracious and generous and put me touch with the people at Good Machine who were incredibly helpful in providing press packs and helped with some fact-checking for the book.

The book Pocket Essentials: Ang Lee was published in 2001 and Phil Hewitt from my new local paper (I had relocated from London to the seaside whilst writing it), did a lovely write-up on the book for the Chichester Observer.

Fast forward to 2018, and after having worked with a new publisher, Aurora Metro, on revising and updating my Pocket Essential book on Jane Campion for their new In the Scene series, I turned my attention to that 2001 Ang Lee book.

During the 2020 lockdown, Cheryl Robson and the team at Aurora Metro miraculously managed to get the book typeset, printed and distributed. Hurrah!

AND once again Phil Hewitt was on hand to write a little something for the local paper – thanks Phil!

So now 20 years 1 month and 2 days after seeing Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon at the cinema, I’m now out in and about promoting the book. You can hear me talking about Ang Lee on the Chichester Cinema at New Park podcast, Chichester CineFile. I’m about 33 minutes in, and I'm chatting for about 10 minutes. I hope to make a few more podcast appearances soon. I’m giving a free online talk for Westminster Libraries on 11 November - Ang Lee: Actors discovered/ rediscovered. In March 2021 I’m teaching a 2-part online course - How to read a film: a brief beginners' guide to cinema - for the City Lit and I’ll be spending the second session looking at the films of Ang Lee and Alfred Hitchcock. I'm always happy to talk about Ang Lee, so if you’d like to book me for an online talk or podcast do get in touch. And you can snap up a copy of the book here, In the Scene: Ang Lee.

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