Vi­sion­ary man

With Gemini Man, Ang Lee wants to change the way we look at movies

Edmonton Sun - - SHOWBIZ - Mark DANIELL is in the­atres now. Gemini Man

ang Lee has built his ca­reer de­fy­ing con­ven­tions — and with Gemini Man, his 14th film in nearly three decades as a di­rec­tor — he’s hop­ing to do it again by rein­vent­ing how film au­di­ences look at movies. af­ter helm­ing his Fa­ther Knows Best tril­ogy in the early ‘90s (Push­ing Hands, The Wed­ding Ban­quet and Eat Drink Man Woman), the tai­wanese-born film­maker recre­ated Jane austen’s eng­land for Sense and Sen­si­bil­ity in 1995. Next, he jumped from sub­ur­ban malaise (1997’s The Ice Storm) to a Western (1999’s Ride With the Devil) to mar­tial arts (2000’s Crouch­ing Tiger, Hid­den Dragon) to comic books (2003’s Hulk) to doomed ro­mance (2005’s Broke­back Moun­tain) and erotic es­pi­onage (2007’s Lust, Cau­tion). but af­ter adapt­ing yann Mar­tel’s ac­claimed novel Life of Pi in 2012, the three-time Os­car­win­ning di­rec­tor found a new pas­sion paved by that film’s use of dig­i­tal tech­nol­ogy and 3d. “dig­i­tal is re­ally a le­git­i­mate tool of art,” he says over a cup of tea in a suite at toronto’s Shangri-la Ho­tel. “I was a re­ally low-tech per­son, but I had a taste of that. Hulk was the be­gin­ning of my ex­per­i­men­ta­tion and I found my­self with un­fin­ished business so I con­tin­ued with Life of Pi. but

I still had un­fin­ished business, so here we are with Gemini Man.”

co-writ­ten by Game of Thrones cocre­ator david be­nioff, Gemini Man fea­tures Will Smith as a re­tired as­sas­sin who is marked for death by a younger clone of him­self. Like Lee’s last film, the 2016 war drama Billy Lynn’s Long Half­time Walk, the hit­man thriller is shot with an ul­tra-clear high frame rate (120 frames-per-sec­ond as op­posed to con­ven­tional movies that are shot at 24-frames-per-sec­ond) and in 3d.

the tech­nol­ogy is so ad­vanced that only 14 the­atres in the u.s. can show the film in 120fps (the clos­est you’ll get in canada is see­ing the fin­ished prod­uct in 60fps). but Lee says that he hopes more film­mak­ers join him in uti­liz­ing the tech­nol­ogy be­cause he thinks that, in the fu­ture, this is how au­di­ences will watch movies.

Lee is not alone in em­brac­ing high­frame rate film­mak­ing. Peter Jack­son shot his Hob­bit tril­ogy in 48fps and James cameron is lens­ing his Avatar se­quels us­ing HFR cam­eras. “to me, it’s the log­i­cal next step,” Lee says. “as a movie watcher, I want to see di­men­sion. Once we saw black and white, silent films, we wanted to see colour and hear sound. three di­men­sion is closer to real life. So, to me, it’s natural ... that (high) frame rate is nor­mal. Most movies are too dark. but,” he says paus­ing for em­pha­sis, “maybe my eyes are some­what dif­fer­ent.”

as he gets set to turn 65 later this month, Lee says he was con­vinced the tech­nol­ogy could help chart a new film lan­guage af­ter Billy Lynn. Gemini Man helps build on that thanks to its crisply shot ac­tion se­quences and a dig­i­tally de-aged ver­sion of a younger Will Smith. but the process, Lee says, wasn’t a smooth one. “We don’t have enough data or feed­back, yet, to tell us what to do or know what’s right or wrong,” he laughs. “It’s a strange place ... the peo­ple who are pay­ing for this want to outdo what 2d movies do ... but the group (work­ing in this for­mat) is small. It’s a strange place.”

Get­ting Smith to sign on to his vi­sion was a chal­lenge, es­pe­cially be­cause the ac­tor didn’t know how it would turn out. Smith plays both roles with the younger clone be­ing ren­dered dig­i­tally. but it still packs an emo­tional punch, Lee says. “Will un­der­stands what the au­di­ence ex­pects and he feels obliged to pro­vide us with a good time,” he says. “but he’s a bet­ter ac­tor now than he was 20 years ago. His age and his ca­reer have done cer­tain things to him that have made him wiser ... It’s a gen­uine artis­tic ef­fort from him and Will gives a re­ally soul­ful per­for­mance.”

Lee takes time to note how good Smith is at playing the younger role. “In those scenes, he has to be more in­no­cent and vul­ner­a­ble than he was in his early 20s be­cause when he was that age he was al­ready fa­mous ... I think he wanted to show us he’s a bet­ter ac­tor now.”

While the film’s im­mer­sive hy­per­re­al­ism is a big tech­no­log­i­cal leap, Lee doesn’t see him­self as a pi­o­neer chart­ing a new course for moviemak­ers. but he thinks it’s the wave of the fu­ture. “I refuse to think of my­self as some sort of leader. It’s just this type of film­mak­ing is the new norm for me now. this isn’t fu­tur­is­tic. It’s just our knowl­edge hasn’t re­ally ac­com­mo­dated this type of film­mak­ing yet ... I don’t know if I’m crazy or I’m nor­mal. but I’m not a pi­o­neer. that,” he says as his lips curl into a smile, “is too scary a thought.”

Ang Lee and Will Smith on the set of Gemini Man, about a hit­man who faces off against his cloned younger self.

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