The Wedding Banquet

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The Wedding Banquet
The-wedding-banquet-1993-poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Traditional 喜宴
Mandarin Xǐyàn
Directed by Ang Lee
Produced by Ang Lee
Ted Hope
James Schamus
Written by Ang Lee
Neil Peng
James Schamus
Starring Winston Chao
May Chin
Kuei Ya-lei
Sihung Lung
Mitchell Lichtenstein
Music by Mader
Cinematography Lin Jong
Editing by Tim Squyres
Studio Good Machine
Distributed by The Samuel Goldwyn Company
Release dates
  • 4 August 1993 (1993-08-04) (United States)
Running time 106 minutes
Country Taiwan
United States
Language Mandarin Chinese
English
Budget $1 million
Box office $6,933,459

The Wedding Banquet (Chinese: 喜宴; pinyin: Xǐyàn; Wade–Giles: Hsi yen) is a 1993 film about a gay Taiwanese immigrant man who marries a mainland Chinese woman to placate his parents and get her a green card. His plan backfires when his parents arrive in the United States to plan his wedding banquet.

The film was directed by Ang Lee and stars Winston Chao, May Chin, Kuei Ya-lei, Sihung Lung, and Mitchell Lichtenstein. The Wedding Banquet is the first of three movies that Ang Lee has made about gay characters; the second is Brokeback Mountain and the third is Taking Woodstock. The film is a co-production between Taiwan and the United States. Together with Pushing Hands and Eat Drink Man Woman, all made in Taiwan, all showing the Confucian family at risk, and all starring the Taiwanese actor Sihung Lung, it forms what has been called Lee's "Father Knows Best" trilogy.[1]

Plot[edit]

Wai-Tung Gao and Simon are a happy gay couple living in Manhattan. Wai-Tung is in his late 20s, so his tradition-minded parents are eager to see him get married and have a child in order to continue the family line. The early part of the film is madcap comedy. When Wai-Tung's parents hire a dating service, he and Simon stall for time by inventing impossible demands. They demand an opera singer and add that she must be 5'9" have two PhD's and speak five languages. The service actually locates a 5'8" Chinese woman who sings Western opera, speaks five languages and has a single PhD. She is very gracious when Wai-Tung explains his dilemma, as she, too, is hiding a relationship (with a Caucasian man). At Simon's insistence, Wai-Tung decides to get married to one of his tenants, Wei-Wei, a penniless artist from mainland China in need of a green card. Besides helping out Wei-Wei, Simon and Wai-Tung hope that this will placate Wai-Tung's parents.

Mr. and Mrs. Gao decide to fly in from Taiwan, bringing US$30,000 to hold an extravagant wedding for their son. Wai-Tung dares not tell his parents the truth, because his father, a retired officer in the Chinese Nationalist Army, has just recovered from a stroke; they go through with the wedding. However, the heartbreak his mother experiences at the courthouse wedding prepares the story for a shift to drama. The only way to atone for the disgraceful wedding is a magnificent wedding banquet. After the banquet, Wei-Wei forces herself on the drunken Wai-Tung, and becomes pregnant. Simon is extremely upset when he finds out, and his relationship with Wai-Tung begins to deteriorate.

Shortly after, Mr. Gao has another stroke, and in a moment of anger, after a fight with both Simon and Wei-Wei, Wai-Tung admits the truth to his mother. She is shocked and insists that he not tell his father. The perceptive Mr. Gao has seen more than he is letting on; he secretly tells Simon that he knows about their relationship, and, appreciating the considerable sacrifices he made for his biological son, takes Simon as his son as well. Simon accepts the Hongbao from Wai-Tung's father, a symbolic admission of their relationship, but Mr. Gao makes him promise not to tell anyone; without everyone trying to lie to him, he points out, he'd never have gotten a grandchild.

After making an appointment to have an abortion, Wei-Wei decides to keep the baby, and asks Simon to stay together with Wai-Tung and be the baby's other father. In the final parting scene, as Wai-Tung's parents prepare to fly home, Mrs. Gao has forged an emotional bond to daughter-in-law Wei-Wei. Mr. Gao accepts Simon and warmly shakes his hand. In the end, both derive some happiness from the situation, and they walk off to board the aircraft, leaving the unconventional family to sort itself out.

Elisabetta Marino, author of "When East Meets West: A Sweet and Sour Encounter in Ang Lee's The Wedding Banquet", wrote that the film suggests that there can be a reconciliation between Eastern and western cultures, unlike Amy Tan's novels where the cultural differences are portrayed as irreconcilable.[2]

Cast[edit]

  • Winston Chao as Wai-Tung Gao (T: 高偉同, S: 高伟同, P: Gāo Wěitóng, W: Kao Wei-t'ung)
  • May Chin as Wei-Wei Gu (T: 顧葳葳, S: 顾葳葳, P: Gù Wēiwēi, W: Ku Wei-wei)
  • Kuei Ya-lei as Mrs. Gao
  • Sihung Lung as Mr. Gao
  • Mitchell Lichtenstein as Simon (T: 賽門, S: 赛门, P: Sàimén)
    • Simon is a tall American with blue eyes and blonde hair. He speaks broken Mandarin Chinese but is proficient in cooking Asian dishes. He is the only character in the movie who receives open prejudice for being gay.[2]
  • Dion Birney as Andrew
  • Jeanne Kuo Chang as Wai-Tung's secretary
  • Michael Gaston as Justice of the Peace
  • Ang Lee (cameo) as Wedding guest

Development[edit]

In the published screenplay version of the film, James Schamus wrote that the film was "first drafted in Chinese, then translated into English, re-written in English, translated back into Chinese, and eventually subtitled in Chinese and English and a dozen other languages."[2] About 60% of the film is in Mandarin Chinese. Elisabetta Marino, author of "When East Meets West: A Sweet and Sour Encounter in Ang Lee's The Wedding Banquet", wrote that "after striving to read the subtitles for the first ten or fifteen minutes, one finds oneself so completely absorbed in the flow of the story, in the tones of the several voices, in the gestures and the facial expressions of the actors, that one simply forgets to read and reaches an understanding beyond languages, beyond words, following a plot and, most of all, a set of characters who do not conform to the stereotypical portrayals an American audience would expect."[2] Marino argued that "Lee’s creative process and his final choice of two languages, Mandarin Chinese and English, for the movie are in themselves symptomatic of his wish to reach a peaceful coexistence between apparently irreconcilable cultures, without conferring the leading role on either of them."[2]

Reception[edit]

The Wedding Banquet received mostly positive reviews; it currently holds a 96% "fresh" rating on Rotten Tomatoes.[3]

Accolades[edit]

The film was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film at the 66th Academy Awards and also nominated for Golden Globe Award for Best Foreign Language Film. It won the Golden Space Needle of the Seattle International Film Festival and the Golden Bear at the 43rd Berlin International Film Festival.[4]

Adaptations[edit]

In December 1993, a novelization of the film, titled Wedding Banquet (ウェディングバンケット Wedingu Banketto?) and published in Japan, was written by Yūji Konno (今野 雄二 Konno Yūji?). (ISBN 4-8387-0508-5)[5]

In 2003, a musical staging was performed at the Village Theatre. It was directed by John Tillinger, choreographed by Sergio Trujillo, with music by Woody Pak and book and lyrics by Brian Yorkey. Yorkey, Village's associate artistic director, said this of the production, "The film succeeds because of Ang Lee's delicate poetry, and there is no way we can replicate that or translate that into a musical. So we took the story a step further. Whereas the film ends very ambiguously, our musical goes on past where the film ends". The show starred Welly Yang as Wai Tung.[6]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Wei Ming Dariotis, Eileen Fung, "Breaking the Soy Sauce Jar: Diaspora and Displacement in the Films of Ang Lee," in Hsiao-peng Lu, ed., Transnational Chinese Cinemas: Identity, Nationhood, Gender (Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1997), p. 212.
  2. ^ a b c d e Marino, Elisabetta. "When East Meets West: A Sweet and Sour Encounter in Ang Lee's The Wedding Banquet." (Archive) Postcolonial Text. 2005. Volume 1, Issue 2. ISSN 1705-9100. Retrieved on November 17, 2013.
  3. ^ The Wedding Banquet at Rotten Tomatoes
  4. ^ "Berlinale: 1993 Prize Winners". berlinale.de. Retrieved 7 June 2011. 
  5. ^ "http://www.amazon.co.jp/dp/4838705085 ウェディングバンケット (新書)]." Amazon Japan. Retrieved on 30 December 2008.
  6. ^ Gener, Randy (2003). "American Theatre (magazine)". American Theatre (magazine) (Theatre Communications Group) 20 (9): 6. ISSN 8750-3255. 

Further reading[edit]

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