The new film from Ang Lee, the Academy Award® winning
director of Brokeback Mountain and Crouching Tiger, Hidden
Dragon. A startling erotic espionage thriller about the fate
of an ordinary woman's heart, it is based on the short story
by revered Chinese author Eileen Chang, and stars Asian cinema
icon Tony Leung opposite screen newcomer, Tang Wei.
1942, The World War II Japanese occupation of this Chinese
city continues in force. Mrs. Mak, a woman of sophistication
and means, walks into a cafe, places a call, and then sits
and waits. She remembers how her story began several years
earlier, in 1938 China.
is not in fact Mrs. Mak, but shy Wong Chia Chia (Tang Wei).
With WWII underway, Wong has been left behind by her father
who has escaped to England. As a freshman at university, she
meets fellow student Kuang Yu Min (Wang Leehom) Kuang has
started a drama society to shore up patriotism. As the theatre
troupe's new leading lady, Wong realizes that she has found
her calling, able to move and inspire audiences-and Kuang.
He convenes a core group of students to carry out a radical
and ambitious plan to assassinate a top Japanese collaborator,
Mr. Yee (Tony Leung).
student has a part to play; Wong will be Mrs. Mak, who will
gain Yee's trust by befriending his wife (Joan Chen) and then
draw the man into an affair. Wong transforms herself utterly
inside and out, and the scenario proceeds as scripted until
an unexpectedly fatal twist spurs her to flee.
1941. With no end in sight for the occupation, Wong having
emigrated from Hong Kong goes through the motions of her existence.
Much to her surprise, Kuang re-enters her life. Now part of
the organized resistance, he enlists her to again become Mrs.
Mak in a revival of the plot to kill Yee, who as head of the
collaborationist secret service has become even more a key
part of the puppet government. As Wong reprises her earlier
role, and is drawn even closer to her dangerous prey, she
finds her very identity being pushed to the limit.
Sex always sells. Ang Lee's "Lust Caution"
is the perfect example of it. The explicit sex scenes overwhelmed
the other merits of the movie and garnered the wrong attention
as a result of it.
of all, the Chinese censors demanded that Lee cut away the
naughty bits. Following that, our dear local distributor decides
to release this "clean" version for public screening
and after a big outcry, the original version was later released
but by then, the movie already achieved a substantial box-office
given it's rather arty genre. Thus the internet world was
buzzing with people questioning the motives of the distributor.
It was truly a movie of 2007 that never really require the
use of the marketing budget.
of the grapevine, let's talk about the movie "Lust Caution"
which is adapted from the short story by one of China's renowned
woman writer, Eileen Chang. As this is the original theatrical
version which is slapped with an NC-16 rating, I shall approach
it from this perspective instead (though I watched both versions).
Tang Wei plays Wong Chia Chi, a student who enters the world
of espionage for the sake of her country and the insistence
of her schoolmates led by Kuang Yu Min (pop star Wong Leehom).
The group of greenhorns only have one target in mind, which
is to assassinate Mr Yee (Tony Leung), a top man working for
the Japanese army. Disguising herself as the wife of a businessman,
Wong won the trust of Yee's wife (Joan Chen) through numerous
mahjong sessions and tries her best to grab Yee's attention
hoping to assassinate him through lust.
personally find Leung's performance wanting although a lot
of professional critics agree otherwise. Indeed Leung puts
in one of his finest and stellar act in his twenty-over years
as an actor however his constant deadly, ominous stare in
this 148 minutes movie can get a bit stale after a while.
Tang Wei on the other hand deserves all the attention and
I wouldn't mind giving her all the credits for salvaging "Lust
Caution". For a first-time actress, she is tremendously
versatile in her role as Wong Chia Chi. The role of Wong requires
her to be innocent, pitiful, sexy, nude of course and in dilemma.
And Tang has no problem fulfilling all these proving her potential
to be far more bankable than a certain Zhang actress in the
intensity and tumultuous relationship of Yee and Wong is downplayed
in this version. Obviously, all the touted explicit sexual
scenes are removed here, you should be glad however that Ang
personally see to the cut of this 'friendlier' version and
I doubt you will notice any abrupt jump that will distract
your viewing pleasure. But since it's sex-free and violence
free as well, some of you might feel less attached to the
characters and their intention which I feel is a huge pity.
the end of the day, everyone forgot that "Lust Caution"
is again a wonderful piece of cinematic gem carved by Ang
Lee. The performance of the cast, the beautiful cinematography
by Rodrigo Prieto (who did Ang's "Brokeback Mountain",
"Alexander") and the lush score by Alexandre Desplat
are all overshadowed by the 'kamasutra' sex scenes.
at times flow like a well-versed poetry, "Lust Caution"
or "Se Jie" will go down in cinematic history as
one of Ang's daring works and Tang Wei's interpretation of
Wong Chia Chi is simply too good to be true.
SPECIAL FEATURES :
Maybe there's too much skin to be shown behind-the-scenes
so this DVD comes with zero features. Hey! I'm kidding but
not the zero features part.
Equipped with only Chinese subtitles and mostly dialogue based,
I have no problem with the visual and audio of this Code 3
"Lust Caution" DVD. Colours do look a bit saturated
perhaps it's Ang's intention to make it look a bit closer
to the WWII Shanghai era. There are little scenes to make
use of the Dolby Digital 5.1 except the beautiful musical
notes from the score to delight you.
by Linus Tee