The rule that no two Ang Lee movies are ever the same is confidently kept intact with the release of his latest, Taking Woodstock, a comedy about the true story behind the Woodstock music festival in 1969. It follows romantic wartime drama Lust, Caution and the Oscar-winning Brokeback Mountain on the director’s CV and arrives in UK cinemas this week.
As RT sits down with Lee to ask his five favourite films, he’s keen to point out that if we’d asked him another day we’d have received an entirely different list. “It’s a hard one to answer,” he tells us. “I could give 50, or 100. I’ll throw out 5 that come into my head.”
“It’s one of the greatest, if not the greatest family drama in my opinion. It’s very Eastern, which really grabbed my heart. Everything is very peaceful, nothing too dramatic, but at the end it really gives you the bite that somehow life is disappointing. I love that theme. It shows a very subtle change in life but by being subtle he shows the essence of live, which is change. Nothing will stand still and the only thing that will never change is the principle that things will change. In a very subdued way, it really transmitted that idea to me. It’s very lifelike.”
“I was brought up with melodrama and I got taken [to see it] and really cried my eyes out — I’ve seen it many times since. It’s something I could do really easily, melodrama, but the neo-realism Italian directors can really upscale the genre to a really philosophical social state. That’s really incredible; they can transcend that drama.”
“I’m a big Bergman fan. His movie, Virgin Spring, changed my life. It really fit me, it was the first R film I saw when I was 18 growing up in Taiwan and I was electrified. And then I watched more of his movies and Persona is my favourite.”
“Yesterday I wore a particular shirt, which was Kubrick’s favourite shirt. His last picture was costumed by an English costume designer who I used three times. She passed away a couple of years ago, but she said Kubrick had seven sets of this particular shirt. He’d only wear that shirt every day, so she made one for me and I love it. I just worship Kubrick. 2001, I couldn’t really figure out what it was but I saw it when I was young and it captured me. It’s like an acid trip! [laughs]”
“It’s not my favourite movie — I could go on for many movies I liked — but this year, it’s this Israeli movie. I was on the jury in Venice and we gave it the Golden Lion. It’s really gripping. The whole movie is shot from the inside of a tank and it’s so effective. It’s really exciting moviemaking and quite special. It won’t make it to my all-time great movie list, but for this year, it was something that really impressed me.”
Taking Woodstock is out in UK cinemas on Friday.