As a director, Ang Lee has been taking risks throughout his career. And he has two Oscars to show for it, for 2005's Brokeback Mountain and 2012's Life of Pi.
For his latest film, Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk, Ang Lee has deployed an all-new technology that he calls "The Whole Shebang" for its ability to fully immerse the audience in the story. "Whole Shebang means 120 frames-per-second, 4K, 3D," Lee says of the hyper-definition process, which to the eye looks almost unnervingly real. "We haven't come up with a sexier name."
Ang Lee will release Billy Lynn's Halftime Walk in January
Lee's goal was to bring the audience into the movie, which is an exploration of post-traumatic stress disorder as a 19-year-old veteran of the Iraq War (played by newcomer Joe Alwyn) is brought home and paraded as a hero in front of the crowd at an American football game.
Of his planning process, Lee says the key question was: "Would I stay in movie land or move out of movie land? That was a tough decision. A conscious, morality decision. When you watch a film, you feel the flicker. You still know you're in movie land, in somebody else's story. You're safe." But this technology has four times the resolution and five times as many frames, eliminating the flicker entirely.
"We're the first to try this with live images and storytelling," Lee says. "Making a movie is a big endeavour and investment, so I had to make that decision before I took a leap of faith. It was like going back to film school, learning how to make movies all over again. That was true for me and for all these people who are consummate professionals and have been doing this for a long time."
Because of the extra detail the cameras would capture, Lee says his actors had to take a much bigger risk too. "There was no makeup," he says. "I wanted to study their faces, every little nuance. No artifice was allowed. So much is seen in their eyes, even the pores and their skin tone."
Lee notes that in real life we look at these details without even realising it. "I'm really eager to persuade people that 3D is about that, and not the action or the spectacle," he says. "They think 3D is for a space movie or a cartoon. I beg to differ. I think the most you get out of this is reading faces. When you have details, the way you pick up information is different. We're trying to figure something out that makes you feel alive. All I'm asking is that people keep an open mind."
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