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Why Ang Lee Makes Me Read

 

Photo of Ang Lee.Ang Lee has done it again. Just seeing the trailer for Life of Pi makes me want to finally read the book. I know! The Yann Martel novel is a staple on summer reading lists, but it has a tiger in it. I don't do animal stories. Even ones that are parables. Charlotte's Web and Animal Farm were very scarring experiences for me..

Ang Lee often bases his films on novels or short stories: Sense and Sensibility, Brokeback Mountain, and Lust, Caution. When possible, I prefer to see a film before reading the book, since the book experience is often more detailed and if I like the story, I want more details. But this isn't always the case. Ang Lee and his production team expanded Brokeback Mountain from a spare Annie Proulx short story from her collection Close Range: Wyoming Stories. The basic plot points are in her story, but it's far less emotional. The short story is a snapshot of the two lovers' tragic situation, and there isn't enough time to feel for them.

I felt the same way about Lust, Caution by Ailing Zhang, which is a brief novella following the narrow perspective of a clinical narrator who is a spy during WWII. Ang Lee's film has a much better sense of location, offering the viewer vibrant images of Shanghai, bustling even in the middle of WWII. Tony Leung Chiu Wai gives a charismatic (and repelling) performance as Mr. Yee, a Chinese official collaborating with the Japanese government. The book has its appeal, but Ang Lee made the story much more compelling. Lust, Caution did get some notoriety for its very explicit sex scenes, but at its heart the film is a well-crafted spy drama with a brutal ending.

So Life of Pi awaits me. This one I may need to read first so I can brace myself for all the animal situations. Apparently it's about a zookeeper's son who is traveling with their zoo animals on a ship and when the boat sinks, he is trapped on a lifeboat with a tiger and some other animals. How can this possibly end well? I really wish Ang Lee had chosen another book, maybe something brutal like The Alienist. Should I read it, or will it break my heart?

 

Author Bio:

Cynthia R started crying when Wanda the Fish was eaten by Otto in A Fish Called Wanda. The murder of the little white dogs kind of bothered her too except they looked really fake.

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