Is First Acclaimed Taiwanese Gay-Themed Film Summary

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

A unique comedy revolving around cross-cultural, sexual, national, and family issues, The Wedding Banquet was an immediate commercial and critical success, launching Taiwanese filmmaker Ang Lee’s career. Also, Lee won an Oscar and a Golden Globe for Best Director for the gay-themed 2005 film Brokeback Mountain in 2006.

Summary of Event

The Wedding Banquet was the most profitable film of 1993. Earning more than twenty-three times its budget, the film had a higher return-to-cost ratio than Steven Spielberg’s Jurassic Park, which opened the same year. In addition to being Taiwan’s biggest box-office hit, The Wedding Banquet made $7 million in the United States and $30 million worldwide. [kw]Wedding Banquet Is First Acclaimed Taiwanese Gay-Themed Film, The (1993) [kw]Taiwanese Gay-Themed Film, The Wedding Banquet Is First Acclaimed (1993) [kw]Gay-Themed Film, The Wedding Banquet Is First Acclaimed Taiwanese (1993) [kw]Film, The Wedding Banquet Is First Acclaimed Taiwanese Gay-Themed (1993) Wedding Banquet, The (film) Film;Taiwanese Film;and homosexuality[homosexuality] [c]Arts;1993: The Wedding Banquet Is First Acclaimed Taiwanese Gay-Themed Film[2250] [c]Race and ethnicity;1993: The Wedding Banquet Is First Acclaimed Taiwanese Gay-Themed Film[2250] [c]Cultural and intellectual history;1993: The Wedding Banquet Is First Acclaimed Taiwanese Gay-Themed Film[2250] Lee, Ang Chao, Winston Gua, Ah-Leh Lung, Sihung Chin, May Lichtenstein, Mitchell

Shot on location in New York City, The Wedding Banquet tells the story of Wai Tung (Winston Chao), a gay Taiwanese man who has been living with his Caucasian lover Simon (Mitchell Lichtenstein) for five years in Manhattan. Wai Tung is a successful real estate entrepreneur who is happy in his long-term relationship. However, he has hidden his homosexuality from his elderly parents, Mr. and Mrs. Gao (Sihung Lung and Ah-Leh Gua), who are hoping for a grandchild from Wai Tung, their only child. Determined to find a wife for him, they have registered him with computer dating-services in Taiwan.

Meanwhile, Wai Tung has trouble collecting rent from his tenant Wei Wei, a struggling visual artist from Shanghai, China. An undocumented immigrant, Wei Wei (May Chin) is in danger of being deported, so she is desperate to obtain a green card or gain legal status through marriage. Simon suggests a solution: If Wai Tung and Wei Wei become married legally, then Wai Tung’s parents would be satisfied that he had found a bride, Wei Wei would get her green card, and Wai Tung and Simon could continue their relationship. However, this deception leads to hilarious complications and more deception when Wai Tung’s parents come to America to plan their son’s wedding. Wai Tung fools his parents into thinking he and Wei Wei are living in Simon’s home and that Simon is the landlord.

The Gaos are disappointed with the simple wedding ceremony at city hall. Following the ceremony, Simon invites everyone to dinner at the best Chinese restaurant in Manhattan. The restaurant owner recognizes Mr. Gao as his former army commander and offers to host an extravagant wedding banquet. Wai Tung and Wei Wei soon become intoxicated and later make love in the newlywed suite.

Wei Wei discovers she is pregnant, and Simon becomes angry. When Simon and Wai Tung argue, Mr. Gao, who actually understands some English, realizes that Simon and Wai Tung are lovers. Mr. Gao suffers a mild stroke. In the hospital waiting room, Wai Tung tells his mother that he is gay, but Mrs. Gao asks that he keep it a secret from his father. Wei Wei had planned to have an abortion but changes her mind.

As Mr. Gao recuperates, Simon helps him with physical therapy. One day, Mr. Gao tells Simon that he accepts him as Wai Tung’s companion, but he asks Simon to never tell Wai Tung, Mrs. Gao, or Wei Wei that he (Mr. Gao) knows. Wei Wei asks Simon to be a second father for her and Wai Tung’s child, and the movie ends happily with the Gaos returning to Taiwan, expecting a grandchild.

Significance

In addition to its remarkable commercial success, The Wedding Banquet received widespread critical acclaim. In 1993, it won numerous awards. At the Berlin International Film Festival, it won the top prize, the Golden Bear, for best picture. At the Locarno Film Festival, it received the audience choice award. At the Golden Horse Film Festival (Taiwan’s equivalent of the Academy Awards), the film won awards for best picture, best screenplay, best director, best supporting actress, and best supporting actor. It also received the Golden Space Needle awards for best film and best director at the 1993 Seattle International Film Festival. In 1993, at both the Academy Awards and the Golden Globe Awards, The Wedding Banquet was nominated for best foreign-language film. At the 1994 Homer Awards, the film was a nominee for best foreign-language film of the year.

With The Wedding Banquet, Ang Lee achieved international recognition and financial success that firmly established his place in film history. His 2005 film Brokeback Mountain, about long-term love between two cowboys, garnered for Lee a best director Golden Globe and an Oscar.

The Wedding Banquet was the first Taiwanese film in which two men kissed; Lee’s cross-cultural gay film, however, was not the usual superficial or often derogatory presentation of stereotypical gay and Asian characters. Instead, Lee created a unique comedy about national, cultural, individual, and family identities in conflict. The intricate development of plot and characters made it a film that appealed to mainstream audiences worldwide. In Taiwan, international critical acclaim led to government support and incentives for the Taiwanese filmmaking industry. The Wedding Banquet was released in video and DVD formats for the mass market. Wedding Banquet, The (film) Film;Taiwanese Film;and homosexuality[homosexuality]

Further Reading
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Berry, Chris, and Feii Lu, eds. Island on the Edge: Taiwan New Cinema and After. Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press, 2005.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Berry, Michael. “Ang Lee: Freedom in Film.” In Speaking in Images: Interviews with Contemporary Chinese Filmmakers, by Michael Berry. New York: Columbia University Press, 2005.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Cheshire, Ellen. Ang Lee. Harpenden, England: Pocket Essentials, 2001.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Feng, Peter X., ed. Screening Asian Americans. New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University Press, 2002.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Hamamoto, Darrell Y., and Sandra Liu, eds. Countervisions: American Film Criticism. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2000.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Lee, Ang, et al. “Eat Drink Man Woman,” and “The Wedding Banquet.” In Two Films by Ang Lee. Woodstock, N.Y.: Overlook Press, 1994.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Lewis, Jon, ed. The End of Cinema as We Know It: American Film in the Nineties. New York: New York University Press, 2001.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Summerfield, Ellen, and Sandra Lee. Seeing the Big Picture: Exploring American Cultures on Film. Yarmouth, Maine: Intercultural Press, 2001.

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