Ang Lee, born in Taiwan in 1954, graduated from college in his home country in 1975 and then took degrees in theater and film in the United States. He began to direct in 1992, in Taiwan and in Hollywood. Eat Drink Man Woman, released in 1994, was his third film, and it was nominated for an Oscar for best foreign-language film, as was his second film, The Wedding Banquet, from 1993. Lee was nominated for an Oscar for best director for Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon in 2000, and that film was also nominated for best picture. He won best director in 2004 for Brokeback Mountain, and again in 2013 for Life of Pi. Life of Pi, which I think was an exceptional movie, was also nominated for best picture.
As the movies in this series of films illustrate, the subject of food in movies intersects with the subject of families, what they mean to us and how we feel about them. The “Food” series consists of American films as well as films from several other countries, and in them, the giving and taking of food helps explain the give and take of love and affection within families. In this picture, the central figure, Mr. Chu the chef, and his family, three daughters of marriageable age, provide the structure. Janet Maslin in the New York Times wrote “This film's use of food is both voluptuous and serious, amplifying the story even as it offers an irresistible diversion. The film succeeds in presenting Mr. Chu's intricate cooking (rendered for the camera by three amazingly artful chefs) as an expression of larger traditionalism and as an endangered art.” Ang Lee cast Sihung Lung, who plays Mr. Chu, in each of his first three films and again, six years later, in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. Sihung Lung was retired after a career in the Nationalist army and as a tough guy in Taiwanese films, but Ang Lee chose him for parts, in those first three films, that required great sensitivity. A confession follows: I chose this film for this series before I had seen it, but when I saw it, I wasn’t disappointed. I hope you enjoy watching Eat Drink Man Woman with me tonight.