The memory of Ang Lee, sensitive humanist auteur from Taiwan's New Wave has become a distant memory over the past decade or so. All hail Ang Lee, constructor of boundary-pushing technical spectacle! He earned his second Best Director Academy Award for besting the hazard-trifecta of children, animals, and water with Life of Pi and then introduced public audiences to high-framerate hyperreal photography with Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk last year. (Though opinions on the extent to which he succeeded on that second one vary wildly.) And now, the news is out that he’ll rejoin us in 2019 for another huge undertaking.
Hot off Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk, Academy Award-winning director Ang Lee is ready for his next project — which might end up being a script that’s been in the pipe for about 20 years, penned by none other than Game of Thrones showrunner David Benioff. Lee is currently in negotiations to direct Benioff’s sci-fi thriller Gemini Man for Skydance.
Imagine landing your first role in an Oscar-winning director’s film. Now imagine that film is being shot with a technology that’s never before been attempted. Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk, the latest visual experiment from Ang Lee, stars newcomer Joe Alywn, a 25-year-old who left his London drama school early to make a boundary-pushing film.
Given how much space physical media takes up, it’s hard for movie buffs to say no to the great promise of “cloud storage,” and the idea that we could summon anything we want to watch with just a couple of clicks. But so far, reality hasn’t matched the hype. Streaming services have been focused on exclusives and original programming, to the extent that the only way to have access to everything available is to spend hundreds of dollars a month on subscription fees. Meanwhile, older films keep disappearing from the digital archives; and even items that cinephiles “own” sometimes become inaccessible whenever software updates or a site shutters.
Ang Lee is am ambitious filmmaker, but ambition doesn’t always pay off. With Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon he fused emotional relationships with the dazzle of wuxia action, and in Life of Pi he told a story about spirituality and survival through an innovative use of CG and motion-capture performance. In Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk Lee is once again pushing the boundaries of filmmaking shooting the film in 120 frames per second (five times the normal rate of your average movie). What results is a stunning and unique viewing experience, but ultimately a failed experiment.
We know more about Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk today than we did when the first trailer debuted back in May. Our own Erin Whitney was present for the film’s world premiere at the New York Film Festival earlier this month, and relayed their full scoop back to us through their review: Ang Lee gets a lot of points for sheer chutzpah, having shot the first feature-length film using highly sophisticated 4K 120 frames-per-second technology, but his gambit ultimately fails. The realistic look of the film is almost too real, its crisp movements too unnaturally fluid for their own good.