Stills of "Lust, Caution"
(Courtesy from BVI)
Mandarin with English and Chinese Subtitles
Genre: Drama/Thriller Director: Ang Lee Cast: Tony Leung, Wang Li Hom, Joan Chen,
Tang Wei RunTime: 2 hrs 28 mins Released By: BVI Rating: NC-16 (Some Intimate Scenes)
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.
With a heavy heart, this reviewer is reporting that the original
uncensored version of Oscar winner Ang Lee’s new film
is probably better than the one that is being screened here
in Singapore. And that is not because he is interested in
how explicit the extra nine minutes of footages are –
he genuinely feels that the anguish and repression of the
story would be better expressed with the reportedly steamy
sex scenes played out by lead actors Tony Leung and newcomer
on a novel written by Chinese author Eileen Chang in the 1950s,
Tang plays a young girl who gets swept into a whirlpool of
love, lust and betrayal in 1942 Shanghai. Together with a
group of students, she is tasked to carry out a plan to assassinate
a Japanese collaborator played by Leung. Feelings for the
man become entwined with her call for duty, and the drama
ultimately culminates in a heartbreaking tragedy.
148-minute (as compared to the original 157-minute) version
may be a test of patience to the fidgety movie patron, but
the Venice Film Festival Golden Lion winner is like fine wine:
take your time to savor the heartrending and intricate emotions,
and the takeaway will be worth your while.
director Lee has his cast to thank for this. Wang Leehom’s
student leader is accessibly likeable. Critically-acclaimed
for his versatility, Leung characterizes his villainous character
with an appropriately inward authoritarianism. Tang complements
this nicely by playing her young idealistic student role with
is why, the film would have fared better with the supposedly
animalistic sex scenes to contrast with the two leads’
suppressed feelings. Such pity, because local viewers cannot
enjoy the film in its entirety, but this review shall not
go into which party should be responsible for this regrettable
helmed other commendable works like Eat Drink Man Woman (1994)
back home and Brokeback Mountain (2005) at Hollywood, the
seemingly soft-spoken filmmaker definitely knows how to get
a fantastic story out of the materials and resources he has
on hand. In his latest work, other than his fine exploration
of the emotions between characters, he has Mexican Rodrigo
Prieto’s (25th Hour, Babel) sturdily grounded cinematography
to carry the film forward, American Tim Squyres’ (Hulk,
Syriana) simple yet effective editing to coherently tell the
tale of espionage, and French Alexandre Desplat’s affecting
music underscore to move your heart.
the movie ends with a quietly tragic scene, this reviewer
was left shaken by how the film has stripped bare the vulnerabilities
of human emotions. It is with a heavy heart he walks out of
the theatre, reflecting on this tragic human nature. And of
course, how much more poignant the film would be if he saw
the extra nine minutes.