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THE WEDDING BANQUET

Taiwan, 1993 (MIFF 1993)

Director: Ang Lee

Joint winner of the Golden Bear at this year's Berlin Film Festival, The Wedding Banquet represents yet another thematically daring, thoroughly entertaining film from Taiwan. An engaging social comedy with sly political undertones, the movie's farcical fulcrum, namely a marriage of mutual convenience in New York, provokes both laughter and a few lingering questions to ponder. In short, it's an ideal opener for a film festival which seeks to offer not the same old songs but new measures sung with fresh voices.

And fresh is the only way to describe director Lee's breezy spin on that venerable dramatic convention, the family nuptials. For a start, the groom, Gao Wai-Tung (newcomer Winston Chao) is a young, gay New Yorker comforlably set up as a successful real estate investor with an emotional attachment to live-in Caucasian lover, Simon (Mitchell Lichtenstein, still remembered for his brilliant performance in Altman's Streamers). To appease the increasing concern of his elderly parents back in Taiwan with regard to their son's perennially single marital status, Wai-Tung, on Simon's suggestion, agrees to a simple registry office ceremony with Wei-Wei (pop star May Chin), an illegal art student from Shanghai residing in one of Wai-Tung's buildings. Amusing complications arise with the arrival of the Taiwanese elders in the Big Apple's big smoke and a straightforward formality escalates into a major production number. Not only do mum and dad move into their boy's apartment, but a momentary bout of drunkenness causes an unexpected accident that changes everyone's lives.

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