In Classical Tai Chi we have both "cooperative" and "competitive" Pushing Hands. Use of different terminology same concepts is present in an Ang Lee film. "Pushing Hands" as the most important metaphorical concept is only explained at the end of the film. In short, the technique of "pushing hands" literally functions to allow cooperation or competition, discord or harmony Example: One can set out to unbalance, be antagonistic, competitive, actively try to push around one's partner/opponent "discord". Or one can set out to harmonize, cooperate when neither partner is actively trying to unbalance the other.Harmony is in short supply in the Chinese restaurant. It is even less harmony than exists in his son's home. Ang Lee makes expressive use of "hands" in many of the scenes but note there are no close-up shots of hands when Zhu is working in the Chinese Restaurant. Let's contrast this with the close-ups and copious use of explanation for "hands" present in Master Hwa's Tao of Martial Applications.
Tao of Martial Applications: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ir4vQ8qzpKU
Immovable Old Zhu https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HDzNML7NgM8
Actually "pushing hands" with someone feels like a 6th sense ("ting jin" or "sensing/listening") and a new found method of communication between humans. How can humans not use improved communications? This film by Ang Lee explores how xenophobic hostility is transformed into harmony because of open minded cultural communication...sounds like a metaphor for crowded/open spaces. NYC comes to mind which is where this was filmed by Ang Lee.
The wonders of what "space" or the lack of "space" can do...
One of the very few venues where you would get my vote on using Tai Chi as performance art. If you can pay a reasonable price, try to get the video
The seventh art, Ang Lee: http://www.theseventhart.org/…/vide…/issue-17-pushing-hands/