Ang Lee: A Chinese Take On The Taiwanese Master's Latest Movie Feature

Life of Pi shows the Taiwan-born Lee in total command of his storytelling talents.

Ang Lee: A Chinese Take On The Taiwanese Master's Latest Movie Feature
Mu Weier

LONDON – Taiwanese-born director Ang Lee continues to build his film legend. His latest film, “Life of Pi,” made its U.S. and Chinese debut during Thanksgiving weekend. In both countries it was met with universal acclaim.

American film critic Roger Ebert called it “a miraculous achievement of storytelling and a landmark of visual mastery,” saying it was “one of the best films of the year.” Its rating soared on, a Chinese social networking service for books, movies and music – making it a box office hit.

Ang Lee started his cinematographic career with three Taiwanese films: "Pushing Hands," "The Wedding Banquet" and "Eat Drink Man Woman." They all addressed the issue of cultural and intergenerational relationships, and conflicts. Ang Lee then made the switch to British and American films, with historical and societal movies: "Sense and Sensibility," "The Ice Storm" and “Ride with the Devil."

After that, he turned to action films with "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" and “Hulk” both very different in style. The former, a Chinese-style wuxia (a film genre concerning martial arts), won the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film, as well as being a worldwide hit, but the latter, his first big-budget movie, wasn’t as popular, earning mixed reviews.

Lee’s more recent works include "Brokeback Mountain" and "Lust, Caution." In both films, he showcased his piercing analysis of inner emotion.

With “Taking Woodstock” and “Life of Pi,” Ang Lee turned to an ingenious method of storytelling though flashbacks and repetitions.

A storytelling master

However, Ang Lee hasn’t escaped criticism. “Taking Woodstock” was mostly criticized for the fact that none of the musical aspect of the historic music festival were actually featured. Instead of showing the music and the sense of utopia, the movie chose to show the young hero’s LSD trip and psychedelic hallucinations. As someone who was not at the actual event, Ang Lee shot the film from an interesting angle. It’s as if he was saying: If the movie-going public wants to see the festival, they should just watch a documentary.

Besides, it was simply impossible for Lee to recreate such a festival, not even with the help of digital techniques. The legendary concert is, therefore, left to the imagination of the audience.

“Life of Pi” is no exception. It shows the story in an alternative manner. It’s only after a while that the viewers suddenly realize what they had seen earlier was probably an illusion. The film director chose to hide the truth and the full picture from his audience. What is real, and what is not, is an important theme of the movie.

With Pi, Lee chose a theme that is not your usual Hollywood blockbuster fodder. As Lee had previously stated, "Don’t work with kids, don’t work with animals, and don’t work with water," because these themes aren’t as appealing for an audience. Lee tried his best to contradict this adage while at the same time being thought provoking. The filmmaker has successfully managed to share Pi’s inner world with the audience, a talent that few in his generation share, the voice of a true storytelling master.

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Air Next: How A Crypto Scam Collapsed On A Single Spelling Mistake

It is today a proven fraud, nailed by the French stock market watchdog: Air Next resorted to a full range of dubious practices to raise money but the simplest of errors exposed the scam and limited the damage to investors.

Sky is the crypto limit

Laurence Boisseau

PARIS — Air Next promised to use blockchain technology to revolutionize passenger transport. Should we have read something into its name? In fact, the company was talking a lot of hot air from the start. Air Next turned out to be a scam, with a fake website, false identities, fake criminal records, counterfeited bank certificates, aggressive marketing … real crooks. Thirty-five employees recruited over the summer ranked among its victims, not to mention the few investors who put money in the business.

Maud (not her real name) had always dreamed of working in a start-up. In July, she spotted an ad on Linkedin and was interviewed by videoconference — hardly unusual in the era of COVID and teleworking. She was hired very quickly and signed a permanent work contract. She resigned from her old job, happy to get started on a new adventure.

Others like Maud fell for the bait. At least ten senior managers, coming from major airlines, airports, large French and American corporations, a former police officer … all firmly believed in this project. Some quit their jobs to join; some French expats even made their way back to France.

Share capital of one billion 

The story began last February, when Air Next registered with the Paris Commercial Court. The new company stated it was developing an application that would allow the purchase of airline tickets by using cryptocurrency, at unbeatable prices and with an automatic guarantee in case of cancellation or delay, via a "smart contract" system (a computer protocol that facilitates, verifies and oversees the handling of a contract).

The firm declared a share capital of one billion euros, with offices under construction at 50, Avenue des Champs Elysées, and a president, Philippe Vincent ... which was probably a usurped identity.

Last summer, Air Next started recruiting. The company also wanted to raise money to have the assets on hand to allow passenger compensation. It organized a fundraiser using an ICO, or "Initial Coin Offering", via the issuance of digital tokens, transacted in cryptocurrencies through the blockchain.

While nothing obliged him to do so, the company owner went as far as setting up a file with the AMF, France's stock market regulator which oversees this type of transaction. Seeking the market regulator stamp is optional, but when issued, it gives guarantees to those buying tokens.

screenshot of the typo that revealed the Air Next scam

The infamous typo that brought the Air Next scam down

compta online

Raising Initial Coin Offering 

Then, on Sept. 30, the AMF issued an alert, by way of a press release, on the risks of fraud associated with the ICO, as it suspected some documents to be forgeries. A few hours before that, Air Next had just brought forward by several days the date of its tokens pre-sale.

For employees of the new company, it was a brutal wake-up call. They quickly understood that they had been duped, that they'd bet on the proverbial house of cards. On the investor side, the CEO didn't get beyond an initial fundraising of 150,000 euros. He was hoping to raise millions, but despite his failure, he didn't lose confidence. Challenged by one of his employees on Telegram, he admitted that "many documents provided were false", that "an error cost the life of this project."

What was the "error" he was referring to? A typo in the name of the would-be bank backing the startup. A very small one, at the bottom of the page of the false bank certificate, where the name "Edmond de Rothschild" is misspelled "Edemond".

Finding culprits 

Before the AMF's public alert, websites specializing in crypto-assets had already noted certain inconsistencies. The company had declared a share capital of 1 billion euros, which is an enormous amount. Air Next's CEO also boasted about having discovered bitcoin at a time when only a few geeks knew about cryptocurrency.

Employees and investors filed a complaint. Failing to find the general manager, Julien Leclerc — which might also be a fake name — they started looking for other culprits. They believe that if the Paris Commercial Court hadn't registered the company, no one would have been defrauded.

Beyond the handful of victims, this case is a plea for the implementation of more secure procedures, in an increasingly digital world, particularly following the pandemic. The much touted ICO market is itself a victim, and may find it hard to recover.

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