Lee, Other Foreign Oscar Nominees, Celebrate Craft

Lee, Other Foreign Oscar Nominees, Celebrate Craft
When Jan Hrebejk, the director of the Oscar-nominated "Divided We Fall," met Petr Jarchovsky as a young teen-ager, they competed in everything -- who played guitar better, who had the best album collection.

Then they both fell in love with film, and everything was different. "We stopped competing and we started cooperating. And that has worked for 18 years," Hrebejk said on Saturday, the day before he and his friend and screenwriter, Jarchovsky, find out if they win in the best foreign-language film category.

"Divided We Fall," the Czech Republic's entry, is in a field of five that also includes "Amores Perros" of Mexico, "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" from Taiwan, "Everybody Famous" from Belgium and "The Taste of Others" from France.

The directors of those films came together to talk about their work on Saturday, showing themselves to be filmmakers of widely different styles and motivations, but sharing the same love of craft.

Speaking from a comfortable easy chair on stage with his fellow nominees, Taiwan-born Ang Lee had his audience frequently bursting into laughter with his frank comments on writers, actors and all sides of the industry.

Lee's "Crouching Tiger" has been nominated for 10 Academy Awards, including best picture and best director, and is widely considered the favorite for the foreign-language award.

Lee said that when he and his longtime collaborator, writer/producer James Schamus, write, they start with the final scene and consider how they want the audience to feel when they leave the theater. Then, he said, "we structure the film backwards."

But overall the writing can be fairly streamlined, he said. For the fight scenes in "Crouching Tiger," a fantasy martial arts film, Schamus simply wrote, "They fight."

Lee said he had wanted to do a film like "Crouching Tiger" since childhood.

"I wanted to do justice to this pulp fiction genre," he said. "Everyone was trying to fulfill a childhood fantasy ... to pursue a China that is fading away in our heads," he said, in a nod to the many members of the cast and crew who are Chinese and who have emigrated from their homeland.

On actors, Lee said he had a love-hate relationship with them. Working with actors could be "like a mountain I have to climb through," he said. "There are millions of psychological battles."

Alejandro Gonzalez Inarrito took a gentle tack on the first-time actors in Amores Perros," saying he tried on the set to make things as comfortable as possible for them.

When one actress was not warming up to another character in the movie with enough enthusiasm, for example, the director had the actor wear the same cologne as her real-life boyfriend.

"And it worked! You have to find that trick," he said.

"At the end, my job was to be like a net... and keep them from falling to the floor," he said.


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