This is an Archival Discussion Board (2003-2012)
 FAQFAQ   SearchSearch   
Click here to go to 2013- New Tony Board

<Lust, Caution> Review Collection
Goto page Previous  1, 2, 3, 4, 5  Next Forum Index -> Tony Leung Movies
View previous topic :: View next topic  
Author Message

Joined: 27 Jan 2003
Posts: 1691
Location: Hong Kong

PostPosted: Thu Oct 11, 2007 12:30 pm    Post subject:

Lust, Caution (Se, jie)
Director: Ang Lee
Cast: Tang Wei, Tony Leung Chiu Wai, Joan Chen, Wang Lee-Hom
(Focus Features, 2007) Rated: NC-17

RATING: 8 out of 10
by Cynthia Fuchs
PopMatters Film and TV Editor

— 5 October 2007


She felt a kind of chilling premonition of failure, like a long snag in a silk stocking, silently creeping up her body.
—Zhang Ailing, “Lust, Caution”

The primary question in Lust, Caution (Se, jie) is: “What is real?” The answers, nebulous and harsh, are suffused with cigarette smoke and punctuated by clacking mahjong tiles. A WWII melodrama set mostly in Japanese-occupied Shanghai, Ang Lee’s film follows two lovers caught between the titular modes of feeling, pursuing and resisting one another, discovering and losing themselves.

These lovers could not be more different on their surfaces. Mr. Yee (Tony Leung), the brutally efficient head of Shanghai’s secret police, is drawn to Mak Tai Tai (Tang Wei), lovely young wife of a businessman who spends most of his time out town. Espying her at one of his wife’s (Joan Chen) mahjong games, Yee pauses almost imperceptibly, taken aback, and then retreats, back to the shadowy sanctuary of his study, where he keeps his ledgers of those Chinese he has investigated, arrested, and executed. He has an order in mind and a job to do, neither of which he shares with Mrs. Yee or anyone else.

Yee’s stoicism is his refuge, though he seethes with rage and resentment (indicated by the slightest glances and gestures in Leung’s devastating performance, revealed in Rodrigo Prieto’s splendid cinematography). What he can’t know, though you do, is that Mak Tai Tai is not who she seems, but is instead Wong Chia Chi, a Chinese patriot determinedly insinuating herself into his life precisely to set him up for assassination. And what Wong doesn’t articulate, though you observe it, is that she is increasingly confused by the roles she plays, from student and actress to spy and lover.

Wong begins her adventure as a girl, literally in school uniform. She’s motivated to join an actors’ troupe partly by her attraction to its earnest leader Kuang (Wong Lee-Hom). They decide against Ibsen in favor of a patriotic play, and Wong’s first night hooks her forever: when her convincing performance and seemingly real tears inspire the audience to join in her character’s rousing last cry ("China will not fail!"), she’s hooked. So, when Kuang and the others conjure a more ambitious use for their talents, to trap and kill the minister Yee, she goes along.

Her initial encounters with Yee are promising: it’s clear that he’s moved by her, accompanying her to the tailors so she can oversee the modifications to a new suit ("The close-fitting collar,” she notes, “is the latest look"). As they discuss their interests and yearnings over a secret dinner, Wong’s performance ironically allows her to voice assorted truths, to seek out her own feelings. “Men,” she observes, “have many distractions. We ladies have only shopping and mahjong.” She is bored with playing the wife, but she is also excited by the lies. The possibility that she will seduce this powerful man suggests she is herself powerful, not just shopping, but affecting her nation’s history and future.

And then the plan is over—or so it seems. Yee is relocated, the acting troupe disbanded, and Wong left standing on breadlines, like thousands of other Chinese citizens. She misses the scary thrills of their amateurish scheming, and, no small thing, has lost her virginity in at least two ways. Not only has she slept with one of her fellows in order to prepare for the encounter with Yee, but she has also witnessed a horrific stabbing, committed by the actors to protect their secret identities (this scene is extraordinary, a genuinely awful murder, not at all competent or climactic).

When the chance to resume the assassination plot comes up, this time supervised by “official” resistance leaders, Wong again goes along. Some three years after the first failed effort, she is outfitted in expensive dresses, gossips with Mrs. Yee, and glances furtively at Mr. Yee from across the mahjong table. Again, she can dab expensive perfume behind her ears and ride in hired cars. She can imagine herself someone else, she can even imagine herself in love with Yee. For they share not only a mutual, crucial deceit, but they also share a disturbing intimacy, based on lies but also on real emotions—fear, desire, and lust. “If you pay attention,” he tells her, “nothing is trivial.” Indeed, the smallest dishonesties are also the most profound.

Wong’s dedication to her cause is, the movie proposes, shaped by self-delusion as much as a pursuit of truth. Not only do she and her fellow actors believe in the absolute good of their self-appointed mission, but they also believe in the absolute evil of their prey. And yet, as Wong crosses emotional and moral borders during her performance, you see the problems with making such black-and-white distinctions. It’s not that Yee can be forgiven for his crimes, but that her own identity and work are also fraught with grey. Her deceptions make her feel like a prostitute, a role with which Yee can identify. Tragically and tellingly, Kuang can’t comprehend her feelings. He does, however, come to feel a mix of guilt, jealousy, and vague judgment, as he begins to fall in love with Wong, though of course, he never tells her (his manipulations are perhaps more unsettling than Yee’s, because he thinks himself honorable).

As the men work their angles and Wong seeks a measure of self-control, Lust, Caution has garnered attention for its explicit sex scenes. Several are not only graphic, but also violent, illustrating Yee’s cruelty and confusion (he’s desperate to feel powerful, much like Wong) as well as Wong’s need to feel intimate with him, even at the cost of her well-being. But these scenes also serve a thematic purpose, in the questions they raise about what’s “real” in sex performed for films that are not designated “pornography.” At the same time, the sex scenes provide moments of sincere connection for Wong and Yee: they see one another as “real” when they engage in sweaty, acrobatic acts, taking emotional risks they don’t take at any other time. Vulnerable and aggressive, their closeness in these moments is unsafe but also, for them, the most safe they feel. ("What if I told you I hated you?” she asks as they begin one assignation. “I believe you,” he says.)

In these scenes, the sex is plot, not just a break for lush scoring and pretty bodies on display, as it is in most movies. This plot, so urgent and pained, dooms both partners. When Wong at last articulates her suffering for Kuang and their resistance cell leader, Old Wu (Chung Hua Tou), they can’t begin to absorb what she’s telling them. “For an agent,” insists Old Wu, “there’s only one thing: loyalty.” Unlike Yee, who forces his way “into [her] heart,” her so-called compatriots are visibly flummoxed by her description of the sex and her own violent fantasies (she imagines shooting Yee herself, “his blood and brains all over me"). Old Wu asserts, “Keep him hooked and keep me informed.”

And so Wong is lost, even as she thinks herself found. While thematic points are both weighty and obvious (patriotism produces prostitutes, war is motivated by money, betrayal leads to revelation), Wong’s anguish and sudden understanding provide this sometimes lugubrious, often fascinating thriller’s most chilling moment.
Back to top

Joined: 27 Jan 2003
Posts: 1691
Location: Hong Kong

PostPosted: Thu Oct 11, 2007 12:37 pm    Post subject:

Powerful Lust, Caution a Difficult Journey

Reviewed by Sara Michelle Fetters

Film Rating: ***1/2 (out of 4)

Lust, Caution
Rating: NC-17
Distributor: Focus Features
Released: Sept 28, 2007

If there has been a more challenging, thought-provoking, gorgeous, disturbing, exhilarating, disappointing and wonderful motion picture then Ang Lee’s Lust, Caution this year than I have not seen it. While 2007 has seen a thankful explosion (especially since summer came to an end) of magnificently crafted motion pictures asking a lot of their audiences (The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford and Into the Wild both come to mind), this one does this and then some. Cruel and beautiful, emotional and infuriating, this adaptation of Eileen Chang’s short story is as difficult as it is wondrous, all of it coming to an end in a head-scratching climax that’s as fantastic as it is upsetting.

Hopefully all this caterwauling should sound like a recommendation, because for all the picture’s flaws and unevenness this is definitely a movie I hope everyone out there sees. All the discussion about its NC-17 rating and hard-core sex scenes (including a sort-of rape sequence that’s almost impossible to watch) aside, there is a lot to think about here and even more to process, and even if Lee can’t quite bring it all together in a way that’s completely satisfying this is still one drama worth taking the time to ponder.

In Shanghai, 1942, World War II is having its effect on China turning neighbor against neighbor as the nation of Japan slowly begins to take over. It is here that Mrs. Mak (Tang Wei), a sophisticated woman of means, has begun a torrid affair with top Japanese collaborator Mr. Yee (Tony Leung). First gaining his trust through an intimately constructed friendship with his bourgeois wife (Joan Chen), now she has wormed her way into the center of the man’s heart, the continually suspicious official beginning to lower his defenses every time he's alone with her.

All of which is according to plan, because this young lady is not Mrs. Mak but instead wide-eyed Wong Chia Chi, convinced to go undercover by a fellow university student (Wang Leehom) in order to protect their country. But this constant play acting is starting to take its toll, and as much as she loathes the man Mr. Yee has become she has become just as sexually intertwined with his emotional well-being as he has become with hers. Their relationship is one filled with passion and lust, and while the ultimate goal is the man’s assassination getting their might require far more then Wong Chia Chi is willing to offer.

There is a lot I want to say here but unfortunately for once I must admit to not really being sure how. Lust, Caution drove me crazy as it drifted into directions and tangents I’m not altogether sure I understood, some of the cultural realities of the tale lost on me amidst the closeted emotions a mannered silences. Yet it was also deeply fascinating, the visceral complexities of the situation as it weighed mercilessly down upon our frazzled yet driven heroine pretty much breaking my heart.

A cynic would say that Lee’s opus is really nothing more than a variation on themes already presented by Paul Verhoeven in his recent WWII epic Black Book, and while the similarities are obvious (both concern women going undercover to help assassinate traitors using sex as their ultimate weapons) the path chosen by the directors couldn’t be more different. Lee’s film is far statelier, far more reserved and much more delicately pulled to the chest while Verhoeven’s is an in-your-face pulp fiction with so many bullets and fisticuffs it reeks of a dime store novel.

And yet, I can’t help but admit I enjoyed the breathtaking verisimilitude of the latter far more than I did the exacting moodiness of the former. There is just something about this one that couldn’t help but keep me at arm’s length, and every time I thought I was going to get pulled in close to experience things through the eyes of the characters Wang Hui Ling and James Schamus’s script would instead push me back away and make me stand once again in the corner like a disaffected observer scratching my head as to what exactly it was they were expecting me take away from this.

But try as I might I cannot begin to get this film out of my head. From the sight of immaculately manicured nails glistening against the pearly façade of a Mahjong board to the horrific killing of a low-level collaborator trying to put the screws to the students before their plan can go into action, there are sights and sounds I can’t help but remain fascinated with. Lee keeps things moving at an almost hypnotic tempo, and even at close to three hours the film kept me so mesmerized I didn’t even notice so much time was actually passing.

It is newcomer Wei who is the real story here, however. What she does is downright extraordinary. Lee asks the young actress to immerse herself completely inside the complexities of the part while at the same time engaging in emotionally shattering sex scenes the likes of which we might not have seen since Last Tango in Paris. Wei is more than up to the challenge, and by the time she makes her final fateful choices I was so swept up within her travails two single words were all it took to send my pulse racing perilously close to devastation.

I just wish the movie itself didn’t leave me so conflicted. There is a lot going on here and Lee, with a filmography that ranges from Brokeback Mountain, to Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, to Sense and Sensibility, to The Ice Storm, to The Hulk, once again shows a fearless determination as a filmmaker that should warrant considerable applause. But is that enough? I honestly don’t know the answer.

What I do know is that few movies have left me so breathless, so wanting to know more and eager to try and unravel its secrets on a second (or maybe even a third or a fourth) viewing. While far from perfect Lust, Caution is still a masterful creation, and in my world that’s more than enough to make me happy no matter what else there is to say. This one deserves to be seen.
Back to top

Joined: 27 Jan 2003
Posts: 1691
Location: Hong Kong

PostPosted: Sun Oct 14, 2007 3:24 am    Post subject:

MOVIE REVIEW: 'Lust, Caution' will hold your attention

Sacramento Bee

Posted on Fri, Oct. 12, 2007

The sex scenes are the most memorable parts of the NC-17 rated "Lust, Caution," and not just because they are explicit. They break through the reserve of this stylish but emotionally removed picture from Oscar-winning director Ang Lee ("Brokeback Mountain").

Too many things must be assumed about the lead characters, government official Mr. Yee (Tony Leung) and Wong Chia Chi (Tang Wei), a spy for the resistance in Japanese-occupied Shanghai. The lust part, however, is so self-evident as to offer some interpretation of the characters' motivations and personalities. In the meantime, "Lust, Caution" presents enough intrigue and great-looking fashions to sustain interest throughout its 2 1/2-hour length.

Adapted from a short story by Eileen Chang, "Lust, Caution" doesn't play like a period piece. Lee and his "Brokeback" cinematographer, Rodrigo Prieto, fully immerse us in World War II-era Shanghai, where people continue to go about their business and lives, but with a noticeable hitch in their hustle and bustle caused by the Japanese presence.

Lee certainly can set a scene. It's the subsequent actions of his protagonist that puzzle. Wong, whose father has gone to London without her, signs on with a fledgling resistance group led by a dashing fellow student (a handsome but one-note Wang Leehom). So we can see that it's part patriotism and part schoolgirl crush inspiring this girl to join the plot to assassinate Japanese collaborator Mr. Yee. Lee suggests a dash of cinematic influence as well, given the young woman's penchant for trench coats and Ingrid Bergman films.

Wong first infiltrates the home of Mr. Yee, living temporarily in Hong Kong, through that timeless espionage device of mahjong. Posing as the wife of a wealthy businessman (Johnson Yuen, bringing an awkwardness to his character's ruse that provides much-needed levity), the young woman is befriended by Mr. Yee's wife (Joan Chen). Lending a savvy to Mrs. Yee that suggests she's aware of the attraction between her friend and husband, Chen out-acts screen newcomer Tang Wei in their scenes together.

But the gorgeous Tang Wei exudes charisma, and her character has learned the ways of sex and seduction via lessons with a fellow group member (these scenes might be humorous were it not so clear that the woman is doing the dirty work in a plot hatched by men). Mr. Yee seems intrigued by his wife's young friend, just as she seems intrigued by gaining such close proximity to the target.

Trim and natty in 1940s suits, Leung maintains a cool exterior while hinting at his character's discomfiture with his relationship to the Japanese. In his eyes, we can see a man yearning to unburden himself. But even though Mr. Yee is the best-developed character in the film, he's a closed book in some ways. One leaves "Lust, Caution" wondering how this man got mixed up in such business.

The bigger mystery is why Wong, after a relocation to Shanghai and a long break from her espionage duties, re-ups with people who didn't prove themselves too adept the first time around. Once she's in, however, it is clear why she stays. She and her target share sizzling sexual chemistry.

The controversial sex scene in "Brokeback Mountain" is PG-rated compared with the erotic content of "Lust, Caution." Moreover, these scenes, which range from merely intense to sadomasochistic, illuminate the characters in ways that scenes in which they are clothed do not. In his sexual behavior, one sees Mr. Yee's most destructive impulses -- along with his instinct to check them.

For Wong, these assignations finally provide a sense of self. Tang Wei shows gumption in a scene in which her character forces the resistance leaders to listen to the details of her sex life with Mr. Yee - details they clearly do not want to hear. These men, never required to get so intimate with a target, still have the luxury of being able to see only good and evil, not the human complexities in between.
Back to top

Joined: 27 Jan 2003
Posts: 1691
Location: Hong Kong

PostPosted: Sun Oct 14, 2007 11:45 am    Post subject:


by Stina Chyn


2007, Un-rated, 157 minutes, Focus Features, Haishang Films, Mr. Yee
Productions, River Road Entertainment

Tony Leung Chiu-Wai. There are eighty films and television series to his name, including collaborations with major directors of Chinese language cinema such as Wong Kar-Wai, Zhang Yimou, John Woo, and Hou Hsiao-Hsien. The period film “Lust, Caution” brings Leung together with another renowned Chinese artist, Academy Award-winning director Ang Lee, in a partnership that not only makes sense but that is also ostensibly inevitable.

Based on a story by acclaimed contemporary Chinese writer Eileen Chang, “Lust, Caution” unfolds against a culturally and politically turbulent Shanghai and Hong Kong during the Second World War. The film opens in 1942 Shanghai and introduces key characters, a pivotal narrative sequence, and then rewinds to 1938 in the midst of the Japanese occupation of China. The film establishes the motives for the future actions of one group of characters and jumps to 1941, outlining the events that lead up to the film’s beginning.

Chronologically, “Lust, Caution” follows an acting troupe comprised of university students led by Kuang Yu-Min (Taiwanese popstar Wang Lee-Hom) struggling with the turmoil of their country’s political crisis. They soon realize that putting on patriotic plays is not enough to express fully their love for their country and determination to fight for freedom from the Japanese. Passionate and naïve, the students channel their acting abilities and assume false identities in a scheme to eliminate Mr. Yee (Tony Leung), who is branded a traitor for cooperating with the Japanese. Wang JiaZhi (Tang Wei) is the focal point of the charade. Pretending to be a Mak Tai Tai (or Mrs. Mak), wife of Mr. Mak (Johnson Yuen) an import-exporter, Wang befriends Mrs. Yee (Joan Chen) and gets close to Mr. Yee, dismantling his cold exterior.

Joan Chen, veteran actress of both Chinese cinema and Hollywood, performs adroitly as Mrs. Yee, a woman bound to complicity regarding the actions of her Japanese-sympathizing husband. Her opinion of national affairs and whether or not she shares Mr. Yee’s views are irrelevant. In fact, Lee’s film suggests that even Mr. Yee’s own motivations do not require illumination. The closest to an explanation the audience is going to receive appears in a scene near the film’s end where Mrs. Mak meets Mr. Yee in a restaurant in the Japanese district. He remarks that the Japanese (women working in the restaurant) sing like they are crying, like “wolves howling at their masters.” The rest of his words implies that he isn’t betraying his countrymen for the sake of personal enjoyment. Mr. Yee attends to his “business,” keeps appointments, provides for his wife, and always drops in to say hello when she and her friends are playing mahjong. A lot of mahjong is played throughout the film; all of it narratively important as it supports the idea that Mrs. Yee’s politics pertain to preservation of lifestyle not patriotism.

Tony Leung’s extraordinary ability to wear a face that betrays no emotion or subtext produces a superb portrayal of Mr. Yee. Leung’s costar, newcomer Tang Wei, matches his stoicism with a countenance of subtlety and versatility. This point-counter-point intensifies in the sequences that have qualified the film for an NC-17 rating. The climactic moments in “Lust, Caution” are amplified due to the manner in which Mr. Yee and Mrs. Mak affect each other. The suffering and self-sacrifice that the story imposes on its characters are masterfully contoured in the hands of Ang Lee, a skillful director of nuance, eye-line matches, and body language.

The value of “the small things” extends to pop-cultural signifiers too. A particularly nice touch in “Lust, Caution” is the inclusion of clips and posters of Hollywood films featuring Ingrid Bergman and Cary Grant that played in China during World War II. An awareness of or priority for historical accuracy is not just about architecture, technology, and fashion. In this case, it’s also about creating a kind of atmosphere, and there is scarcely a better way to do so than by foregrounding or back-grounding the films of the given time period. Moreover, when a propaganda piece interrupts one of the screenings, “Lust, Caution” reveals an aspect of living in war times that conveys more in its implicitness than a tirade would in utter frankness.

Lee’s directing style urges the viewer to focus on and indulge in what the characters say and how they look at each other (in long, earnest gazes or in quick, stolen glances). Fortunately, the cinematography (courtesy of Rodrigo Prieto) complements this process. The lingering and tracking camera also enables the audience to absorb visual details and to appreciate the humor sprinkled here and there into the dialogue.

In subject matter, “Lust, Caution” recalls “The White Countess” (James Ivory, 2005) but is stylistically more of a film noir than a war (or anti-war) film. It is beautifully costumed and photographed, and isn’t simply a demonstration of excellent acting. Ang Lee’s directing is so engrossing that one abandons the impulse to rationalize and finds oneself completely swept up in the consciousness of the story.
Back to top

Joined: 27 Jan 2003
Posts: 1691
Location: Hong Kong

PostPosted: Thu Oct 18, 2007 3:54 am    Post subject:

Critics too cautious for Ang Lee's must-see Lust
Harry Vaughn
Issue date: 10/11/07 Section: Arts and Entertainment

It's a frustrating moment for moviegoers when film critics, like the folks at The New York Times, gang up on a respectable movie and dismiss it-especially one geared towards their high-brow sensibilities.

Unfortunately, such is the case with Ang Lee's newest film Lust, Caution, a brilliant but misunderstood movie about the perversions of love during inhumane times of war.

The film has been out in theaters for less than a week, but negative reviews will most likely hinder any future success it might have. Therefore, do this criminally underrated movie a favor; go see it and judge for yourself.

Told with both epic scope and astonishing detail, Lust, Caution, much like Lee's Brokeback Mountain, takes the typical Hollywood love story and flips it onto its head.

However, critics have made the fatal mistake of labeling this vastly complex film as an erotic thriller that, in their mind, doesn't thrill or arouse as much as an erotic thriller should.

Have the critics not learned anything from Ang Lee? The Taiwanese-born director is famous for making films that defy the limitations of genres, and Lust, Caution is no exception.

Just look at Brokeback Mountain, a love story about gay cowboys in Wyoming that manages to shoot the Western genre to pieces and deconstruct the myth of masculinity. And how about Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon? A martial arts movie that invests more time in its love story than in its rooftop action sequences.

Thus, to call Lust, Caution an erotic thriller would be to ignore everything that Lee has invested in the film. If it manages to be erotic in moments and thrilling in others, that's only because it is also an intensely romantic film, filled with an equal amount of deep-seated rage and heartache.

Though Lust, Caution is laborious in its 157 minute running time, it is also arguably Ang Lee's finest work to date. It's a movie that not only shatters the conventional love story, but like a fragmented Cubist painting, it attempts to re-arrange the pieces and question the result in ways we never imagined possible.

Told through the eyes of a young Chinese actress named Wong Chia-Chi (Tang Wei), Lust, Caution begins with a flashback, taking us from a café in Shanghai to the outskirts of China during WWII a few years earlier, where the Japanese occupation has already begun.

In an act of defiance, Wong Chia-Chi joins a pro-Chinese theatre troupe that plans to assassinate the traitorous Mr. Yee (Tony Leung), a heartless politician who does dirty work for the Japanese. The actress, bitter from her father's recent abandonment and desperate for affection in any form, agrees to seduce Yee.

The relationship that unfolds in the next two hours is shocking and difficult to categorize, mainly because the audience cannot tell whether Yee and Wong Chia Chi love or loathe one another.

Ang Lee presents a variety of extremely explicit sex scenes that vacillate between brutal sado-masochism and tender love making, each scene adding greater dimension and complexity to the relationship. We never really know if Wong Chia Chi feels compassion for Yee or whether her emotions are a total illusion, masked and perfected by a brilliant stage actress.

Yee also remains an entirely elusive character to the film's end credits. We know that he is violent and cruel, but is he still capable of loving a woman he suspects in his heart of being untrue?

Ang Lee never gives us any answers. He swamps us with questions that go beyond his protagonist's troubling affair. In times of war, is violence and self-destruction the only form of love we can relate to? Can a country (represented by Wong) and the people in it maintain its own identity and sense of self when it is being overturned by brutal outside forces (embodied by Yee)? Lee even ponders whether we all have to act on some level when we agree to love one another, and whether the concept of love is as honest and true as people make it out to be.

These and many more questions linger past the final frame of Lust, Caution, leaving one both profoundly moved and disturbed.

More so than any other film he has made, Ang Lee teases the audience into yearning for a happy ending that he never delivers.

What we're given instead is more potent and effective: an elusive and constantly evolving work of art that thrives off contemplation rather than conclusiveness.

Why the critics found Lee's film distasteful despite such a display of directoral mastery only adds to the great mystery that is this wonderfully enigmatic film.
Back to top

Joined: 27 Jan 2003
Posts: 1691
Location: Hong Kong

PostPosted: Sat Oct 20, 2007 3:41 am    Post subject:

In the Mood for Lust! Ang Lee’s Steamy War Picture Is the Most Honest Political Flick in Years
by Andrew Sarris

Published: October 2, 2007

This article was published in the October 8, 2007, edition of The New York Observer.

Running time 157 minutes
Directed by Ang Lee
Written by Wang Hui Ling and James Schamus
Starring Tang Wei and Tony Leung

Ang Lee’s Lust, Caution, from a screenplay by Wang Hui Ling and James Schamus, based on a short story by Eileen Chang, seems to have been discounted by many reviewers because of its extremely explicit sex scenes. These scenes are certainly steamy enough to make the old Production Code Poohbahs roll over in their graves. Yet these envelope-pushing expressions of carnal passion are also very astutely character-revealing in a manner consistent with the horribly brutal and treacherous period in world history with which Lust, Caution is profoundly involved in both its literary and cinematic forms.

The point is that there is a massive misunderstanding involved in the suggestion that the movie is in any way a trivial exploitation of a trivial story of little political or social significance. Ironically, this was a charge leveled at Eileen Chang (1920-1995) by the left-leaning Shanghai literati of the 1940’s, during which time Shanghai and much of China were occupied by the Japanese, with the help of Chinese puppet government officials. Chang’s own husband was both a collaborationist and a philanderer, and she consequently soon divorced him. I said “ironically” a few sentences ago because Chang’s own bitter experiences made her much more aware of the perverse twists of human nature in times of political chaos than did her one-sidedly sloganeering literary critics of the left. Actually, Chang was a more tellingly insidious social analyst with her endless mah-jongg games than were her foolishly idealistic literary contemporaries.

As a consequence, Lust, Caution is one of the few honestly observant political films, totally devoid of retrospective feel-good propaganda, that I have seen in years, and its characters are thereby perceptively portrayed all the way through to the almost unbearably bitter end of the narrative. The reconstruction of 1940’s Shanghai that Mr. Lee and his skilled collaborators have achieved on a huge Shanghai soundstage plunged me into a world and a time I knew very little about beforehand, and made me a witness to a pair of remarkable character studies, of two chillingly unromantic sexual partners. To make matters even more deviously complicated, one of the partners has a double identity. A patriotic college student named Wong Chia-Chi (Tang Wei) masquerades as a married woman named Mak Tai Tai in a naïve student plot to first seduce and then assassinate a prominent collaborationist official named Mr. Yee (Tony Leung).

That is quite simply all there is to the essence of the narrative, the bare bones, if you will. If one doesn’t accept the initial premise that radically inclined young people in China, Europe or the United States are capable of monumental follies when they confront an evil occupying force assisted by paranoid, resourceful and treacherous traitors in their midst, then Lust, Caution may seem boring and improbable. My own reaction was quite different. Of course, I have never found myself in such a situation, but Philip Roth’s novel The Plot Against America, about Charles Lindbergh and his America Firsters’ winning the 1940 election over Franklin D. Roosevelt, has given me at least a familiar parallel with the situation in which Chang wrote her drenched-with-irony short story, which Mr. Lee and his writers have labored valiantly to transfer to the screen in fleshed-out images and audible dialogue and sounds faithful to the comparatively cryptic clues in the Chang story.

In the film’s production notes, Mr. Lee describes the challenge: “To me, no writer has ever used the Chinese language so cruelly as Zhang Ailing (Eileen Chang) and no story of hers is as beautiful or as cruel as Lust, Caution. … Making our film, we didn’t really ‘adapt’ Zhang’s work, we simply kept returning to her theater of cruelty and love until we had enough to make a movie of it. Zhang is very specific in the traps the words set. For example, in Chinese we have the figure of the tiger who kills a person. Thereafter the person’s ghost willingly works for the tiger helping to lure more prey into the jungle. The Chinese phrase for this is wei hudzuo chung. It’s a common phrase and was often used to refer to the Chinese who collaborated with the Japanese occupiers during the war. In the story, Zhang has Yee allude to this relationship between men and women. Alive, Chia-Chi was his woman; dead, she is his ghost, his chung.”

When it is decided by Wong’s student cell that she reciprocate Mr. Yee’s clear interest in her by going to bed with him, her maidenly virginity suddenly becomes an obstacle to the assassination plot inasmuch as her cover story in getting into the social circle of Mr. Yee’s wife, Yee Tai Tai (Joan Chen), is that she is supposedly married to “Little Mak,” a fictitious businessman who is always traveling abroad to Singapore and other Asian locations. Hence, it is decided, with Wong’s consent, that in her new identity as Mak Tai Tai she should be initiated into a plausibly married state by one of her circle, Liang Jun Sheng (Ko Yu Lien), the only one with “experience,” albeit “only with whores.”

The filming of Wong’s two encounters with the comically mechanical Liang are done so discreetly and unrevealingly and with such complete lack of feeling or passion on both sides, that if these were its only sex scenes, Lust, Caution would have to breathe hard to earn an R-rating from the MPAA. When Wong finally succeeds in getting Mr. Yee to secure a private apartment for their first liaison, she at first coquettishly resists his groping advances so that she can stage an elaborate striptease for what she expects to be a whetting of his sexual appetite and a measure of self-satisfaction in seducing him. But she barely starts taking off a stocking when he suddenly rushes up from his chair and, in effect, forcibly rapes her as if to affirm his complete mastery of her body. Nothing in his previously urbane and soft-spoken manner has prepared us for this violent act. Curiously, Wong seems finally to find amusement in her forced submission. When, at a subsequent session, he seems to want her to say that she hates him even though she is obviously deriving pleasure from their sessions together, we begin to suspect an ominous awareness in him. He says, strangely, that her saying she hates him is the one thing he can believe. He has said much earlier, long before they ever went to bed together, that in all of his conversations with people the only message he could take away from their faces and voices was one of fear. He himself was too frightened of the dark ever to go to the movies, he confided in her—much to her disappointment, because a movie-house assassination would enable the assassins to escape more easily than would an attack in the too-well-guarded streets and private dwellings.

In time the affair between Wong and Mr. Yee reaches its emotional climax and moment of truth in a jewelry shop in which Mr. Yee purchases for Wong an enormous diamond ring and lovingly places it on her finger. Moved by his tender gesture, and aware that her co-conspirators are converging on the jewelry shop to kill him, she looks deeply into his eyes and tells him to “go now.” Grasping immediately the urgency of her warning, Mr. Yee bolts out of the jewelry shop into his waiting car and orders his chauffeur to speed away. By her impetuous action, Wong has sealed her own doom, though she does not fully realize it in the warm glow of the moment.

“Why did she do it?” asks co-screenwriter James Schamus. The question is itself an admission of the impossibility of ever really answering it. And yet we ask. Another, more specific way of asking: What act does Wong Chia-Chi perform at that fateful moment in the jeweler’s shop when she decides whether or not to go through with the murder of her lover? And here, two words—act and perform—indicate the troubling questions Eileen Chang asks us: For at the crucial moment when we choose, when we decide, when we exercise free will, are we not also performing? One could say that Lust, Caution depicts a heroine who “becomes herself” only when she takes on the identity of another, for only behind the mask of the character Mak Tai Tai can Wong truly desire, and thus truly live—playacting allows her to discover her one true love. Mr. Yee doesn’t simply desire Mak Tai Tai while suspecting she is not who she says she is; it is precisely because he suspects her that he desires her. In this sense his desire is the same as hers; he wants to know her. And so lust and caution are in Chang’s work, functions of each other not because we desire what is dangerous, but because our love is, no matter how earnest, an act, and therefore always an object of suspicion.

Mr. Leung’s performance as Mr. Yee has on the whole received much more favorable reviews than the lesser known Tang Wei in the dual roles of Wong Chia-Chi and Mak Tai Tai largely because Mr. Leung’s characterization has been bracketed with the similar role he played opposite Maggie Cheung in Wong Kar-Wai’s much more highly regarded In the Mood for Love (2000), a rapturous succession of Ms. Cheung’s squeezing herself into rapturously form-fitting gossamer gowns to walk in close with the camera across narrow hotel hallways while averting an adulterous act with a similarly married would-be lover played by Mr. Leung. The implied comparison between In the Mood for Love and Lust, Caution is completely inapt in that In the Mood for Love is a triumph of sensuousness over sensuality whereas Lust, Caution is a much darker exploration of perversely fulfilled sexuality during a hellish period in human history. Perhaps I shouldn’t say “perversely” because I find Lust, Caution far less facile and more profound than Mr. Lee’s Brokeback Mountain (2005).
Back to top

Joined: 27 Jan 2003
Posts: 1691
Location: Hong Kong

PostPosted: Thu Oct 25, 2007 12:22 pm    Post subject:


One of the enduring deficiencies in movies centers around their use of sex. Signifiers of sex are of course everywhere in movies, yet nothing could be more rare than the genuine evocation of sexual experience, its breath and heat and smell and fumbling, or than genuine sexiness, whether conveyed subtly or audaciously. But above all, movies frequently fail to use sex as a way to help tell a story, to flesh-out a character, to add texture or specificity to the atmosphere—all the things that any significant aspect of any movie should be doing, which is to say actually adding to a movie’s richness instead of just filling it with empty activity.

Ang Lee’s Lust, Caution (Se, jie), based on a short story by Eileen Chang, has endeavoured to remedy this chronic deficiency. A Mata Hari tale set in Hong Kong and Shanghai between 1938 and 1942, Lee’s Golden Lion-winner is a broodingly paced and, at moments, heartsick evocation of youthful ideology up against virtually absolute power, with poorly organized thespians-turned-resistance fighters convincing a smart and rather fetching young actress (Wei Tang) to seduce and liquidate a high ranking government official (Wong Kar-Wai regular Tony Leung) guilty of collaborating with the occupying Japanese. One of the primary themes of Lust, Caution is that sex is never just a means to an end, and this goes not only for the movie’s protagonists but the filmmakers as well.
Usually when we declare a movie’s highlight to be its sex scenes we mean it as a slight, yet in the case of Lust, Caution the sex is so arresting, so powerfully rendered and so deeply revealing of the duplicitous nature of the complex central characters that it’s something of a triumph for cinematic subtlety and animalistic spectacle both. A common complaint lobbed at Lee’s Brokeback Mountain is that its sex was somehow too subdued, too framed by a fussy, prettified mise en scène that’s managed to detach itself from the sexual immediacy. I’ve seen it only once, but it seemed to me that the sex in Brokeback simply stayed true to the nature of the basically old-fashioned nature vs society tragic love story it wanted to tell, and I’d argue exactly the same thing in this new movie’s favour: the sex here is raw, cruel, intense, emotionally blurry and always uneasy, as it should be.

Leung, playing the most chillingly nefarious character I’ve ever seen him embody, is brilliantly menacing and totally compelling, at one moment possessing the charisma of an angst-ridden Bogart, at another, possessed by a brute urgency to crush his helpless desire for his immaculately seductive mistress. In the end, however, the story—and the movie as a whole—belongs to Tang, who proves to be every bit up to this exceedingly difficult role, and generates much of the erotic charge purely through her relationship to Lee’s consistently carefully placed camera. She somehow manages to begin shaping her character from a place of absolute moral conviction and end in a place of dizzying compromise and moral ambiguity, her sense of self and purpose cracking apart.

Sure, Lee’s lighting can be excessively tasteful at times, and his pacing perhaps takes our willingness to let tension build of its own volition for granted, but I don’t think there are many other directors of his stature who could have brought such a combination of elegance and rapture to this story. He takes a lot of flack from some very good critics, but mainstream movies would do good to let a few more filmmakers of his flexibility, ambition and craft into the studio. V

Opens Fri, Oct 26

Lust, Caution

Directed by Ang Lee

Written by James Schamus, Hui-Ling Wang

Starring Wei Tang, Tony Leung, Joan Chen, Lee-Hom Wang
Back to top

Joined: 27 Jan 2003
Posts: 1691
Location: Hong Kong

PostPosted: Thu Oct 25, 2007 12:26 pm    Post subject:

Lust, Caution heats up screen
Tae Jung Choi

When the producers of Lust, Caution confronted director Ang Lee about his film’s NC-17 rating, he refused to take out any scenes. Directors know that such a rating can be a death sentence at the box office, but Lee’s decision was justified; the sex scenes make the film, adding not only the right tone but the right emotions to elevate the film from just another thriller to a study in lust and power.

The story follows college student Wang Jiazhi and her dangerous involvement with a revolutionary group fighting against the Japanese in China during WW II. They start out as a theatrical group putting on nationalistic plays, but eventually they take militant action against the Japanese, targeting traitor Mr. Yee, a Japanese aide. Wang eventually gets into a steamy relationship with Mr. Yee; the real meat of the film commences there.

Even though Wei Tang plays the role of Wang Jiazhi with realism and subtle emotions, it is Tony Leung’s ferocity that truly shines in this film. Leung, as Mr. Yee, shows the full extent of his passion for Wang with just a glance, and his actions against his countrymen are shown through his sexual tactics rather than through violence. Ang Lee’s decision to omit torture scenes only reinforces his faith in Leung’s ability to show his terror unobtrusively. The whole film relies on the sexual tension and frustration between the two characters. So much goes on during their sex scenes; her face screams with anguish and pleasure while his face is taut and dead.

The film’s only major flaw is the overly long backstory. The film elaborates on multiple acts in Wang Jiazhi’s past so the audience can understand her actions. By the time the film shows the results, many opportunities to add to the theme of misguided lust are lost. The sex scenes are powerful because the audience knows that she wants to kill him, not because of her past.

Every shot in this film is controlled and beautiful without any unnecessary movement of the camera. The cinematography replicates films of the 30s and 40s, which are constantly referenced in this film. Some scenes have a European feel, depicting cobblestone streets and azure blue skies. Despite the tension and tone of the acting, there are romantic colors constantly floating around. The cinematography balances the inner turmoil of the characters.

Ang Lee has made such a variety of films, from Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon to Brokeback Mountain, that it boggles audiences and critics alike how attempts to make vastly different films never fail. Lust, Caution not only proves that he can successfully make a sexually driven film, but also that he can pretty much do anything.
Back to top

Joined: 27 Jan 2003
Posts: 1691
Location: Hong Kong

PostPosted: Mon Nov 05, 2007 2:11 pm    Post subject:

'Lust, Caution': Ang Lee's latest is cruel, beautiful
Ang Lee’s NC-17 film is a meditation on sex and love

Updated: 10/26/07 8:05 AM

It was critic David Edelstein of New York magazine — bless him — who had my favorite line thus far this year on Ang Lee’s “Lust, Caution,” the first notable movie to carry an NC-17 rating in quite a while. Looking at the complicated tangle of arms and legs in one of the many scenes of protracted, often brutal, sex, he cheerfully called one position “a kind of pretzel-y thing they do that I’d like to see diagrammed.”

My suggestion, then, for anyone inclined to throw up hands in horror — or, conversely, to lick chops in anticipation — at so much rough sex in one movie that sometimes skirts the outer edges of rape is to remember a fellow critic’s cheerful wonderment. It’s not easy for many people to know how to react to such blatant sexuality in a movie, but after a lot of movies — and living a little — one does get the hang of it. (A hint for those uncomfortable enough to need one: a little wit and honesty never hurt.)

None of the sex in “Lust, Caution” is gratuitous. None of it is unimportant to what the movie is about. This is, absolutely, the film of one of the great living filmmakers, a man who, in one wildly varied career, has somehow managed to make “Brokeback Mountain,” “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon,” “The Incredible Hulk,” “Sense and Sensibility,” and “Eat, Drink, Man, Woman.”

Nothing is accidental in Lee’s adaptation of the novella by Eileen Chang, the tragic Chinese writer of whom Lee writes in the book of the film script “to me, no writer has ever used the Chinese language as cruelly . . . and no story of hers is as beautiful and cruel as ‘Lust, Caution.’”

Nothing is out of place in the two hours and 37 minutes of “Lust, Caution,” no matter how misshapen it sometimes seems — not the extremity of the sex scenes, nor the sheer unrelieved boredom of watching wealthy and spoiled women gossiping at mahjongg games for the first hour.

That contrast of bourgeois boredom and student political intrigue in the first hour is absolutely necessary — every tedious minute of it — to set up the sudden incompetent brutality of a murder and the equally sudden and brutal but ultra-competent sexuality of the film’s final 80 minutes. Cut any of it, and you lessen the effect of the movie. The same is true of the sex. Every elegant frame of this is germane to Lee’s cruel and beautiful story.

None, I would submit, makes the film easy to watch. It isn’t. It’s a bit of a trial, to be candid.

It’s about a beautiful young resistance fighter (Tang Wei) in China during World War II. The Japanese occupy the country and a particularly murderous Chinese collaborator (Tony Leung) with the Japanese becomes the target of a clumsy, passionate group of student resistance fighters.

Their plan is for the most beautiful among them to have an affair and set him up to be killed. The plan immediately runs aground on their virginity. Only one among them — not the appointed femme fatale — has sexual experience and that was a cash transaction in a brothel. Nevertheless, he becomes the deflowering agent for the crucial conspirator (a funny scene in an otherwise dour movie — again the indication of a master of tone at work).

It literally takes tortuous years for the plan to work. In the meantime, they discover, as a group, that stabbing a man to death is not that easy. And she discovers, when her delicate and calibrated flirtations (she is an actress) succeed in hooking him, that she had absolutely no idea either physically or emotionally what she was in for.

The film, then, becomes Lee’s cruel and beautiful meditation on sex and love, and three things will stay with you when it’s over: the haunting ending, the tendoncrunching sex and the annoying tedium of mah-jongg and gossip to those of us watching in another language.

I don’t know that “a good film” quite describes it, but all of its different ways of discomfiting the audience are nothing if not artful and deliberate. And they’ll create, no doubt, some new readers for Eileen Chang, a writer whose complicated and ultimately tragic story (she ended her life in seclusion) would make a brilliant Ang Lee film of its own.•



STARRING: Tang Wei and Tony Leung
RUNNING TIME: 157 minutes
RATING: NC-17 for nudity and explicit sex.
THE LOWDOWN: A young Chinese resistance fighter’s affair with a man she plans to assassinate, based on a novella by Eileen Chang. In Chinese with subtitles.
Back to top

Joined: 27 Jan 2003
Posts: 1691
Location: Hong Kong

PostPosted: Mon Nov 05, 2007 2:20 pm    Post subject:

Lee turns short story into a novel of exhausting erotica

Fri. Oct 26 - 5:34 AM

Starring: Tony Leung, Tang Wei, Joan Chen, Wang Leehom, Chu Tsz-ying, Anupam Kher
Screenplay by: Wang Hui Ling and James Schamus based on the short story Se Jei by Eileen Chang
Directed by: Ang Lee
Produced by: William Kong, Ang Lee
Running time: 158 minutes
Classified: 18A

Rating: *** out of four

THRILLERS ARE thrillers and erotica is erotica. Director Ang Lee (Brokeback Mountain, Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon) combines them in Lust, Caution. It takes him two hours and 40 minutes to do it. We don’t realize how long the movie is until it’s over although our bodies do. At the end we are exhausted.

That’s as much a tribute to Lee’s gift of story-telling as it is a sign of his over-indulgence. In the end, at the same time as you try to pull your mind and senses out of the intense world he creates, you wonder if he could not have told it more simply. It is, after all, based on a famous (in China) short story by Eileen Chang. I wonder if it takes as long to read the story as it did to see the movie.

The story is set in Hong Kong and Shanghai during the Japanese occupation of China in 1941-42. There is already in Shanghai a Japanese Quarter which we are briefly taken to. We would call it Little Tokyo. But the settings in both places are darker and warmer than modern cities. More bricks and stone and iron, less glass and steel. Vintage 1940s cars vie for space on the streets with rickshaws.

Wong Chia Chi is a strikingly beautiful but shy young university student (played by Tang Wei). As a freshman she joins a Hong Kong drama society created by fellow student Kuang Yu Min (Wang Leehorn) to bolster patriotism as the Japanese brutally infiltrate Chinese society.

Wong is gifted. She plays opposite Kuang and sparks fly. After the play, though somewhat smitten, he keeps his insurgent cool, however. He invites Wong to take part in a plan to assassinate Mr. Yee (Tony Leung), China’s top collaborator.

The idea comes to nothing just yet. But a few years later, the scene shifts to Shanghai and the insurgent cell comes under the guidance of the Resistance. Wong is cast in her new role. She is to penetrate Mr. Yee’s stockade, befriend his wife and friends, and eventually seduce him. Wong becomes Mrs. Mak Tai and joins a set of ladies who meet every day at Yee’s to play mah-jong, with the blessing of Mr. Yee’s security guards — of which there are many and all armed to the teeth, expert, and ruthless.

Mr. Yee passes through the room, sits down to play perhaps once for a hand, but clearly, with his shrewd eyes and wire-taut physical condition, notices everything, and in particular the seductive innocence of Mrs. Mak.

The plot goes as planned for the most part. But the first time Mr. Yee gets Mrs. Mak in a bedroom he exhibits a savagery, a degree of uncontainable lust, and a cruelty which makes rape look like holding hands.

Ang Lee makes us unwilling witnesses to this prolonged brutality. It is not sexy.

In the end he exhausts himself, while at the same time he has revealed the ruthlessness of his character and the unthinkable range of his rage. But he never loses control.

In later encounters with Wong he becomes less and less brutal to a point where the two of them are caught up in a truly erotic passion.

Wong, too, keeps her cool. She still meets with her resistance cell, still reports to them what happens, still proceeds with the assassination plot. But she’s also, clearly, beginning to fall in love with Yee as he with her.

Tang Wei is a remarkable actress. The subtle shades of expression which play across her serenely beautiful features telegraph her feelings. Tiny signs of nervousness — a hesitant step, the tension in the way she removes her coat and places it across a chair contribute to suspense. The camera adores her. And Lee is there to take advantage of every small moment.

The settings are mostly dark as you would expect during the wartime 1940s. They seem both real and fantastic.

Tony Leung is outstanding as Mr. Yee. He never smiles, except for a hint around the corners of his mouth, or a momentary softening of a cheek muscle. He is a cold-blooded monster. But Leung shows us that he is also, though it’s a struggle for him, capable of love.

Lust, Caution is only a two-character movie. No one else counts. While the supporting cast are good, they only serve to illuminate the two principals. That, perhaps, is why Eileen Chang made it into a short story. Lee makes a novel of it. So great is his skill he pulls it off.

It is a strong film, powerfully made and surefooted for all its detail. It is irresistible. And it is exhausting. As a work of art it’s just too big for its britches.
Back to top

Joined: 27 Jan 2003
Posts: 1691
Location: Hong Kong

PostPosted: Fri Jan 04, 2008 4:16 am    Post subject:

<Lust, Caution> ****

Peter Bradshaw
Friday January 4, 2008
The Guardian

The title gets it the wrong way around. What we have here is first a lot of caution, then an explosion of lust. Ang Lee has followed his magnificent version of E Annie Proulx's Brokeback Mountain with another love story - more explicit in many ways, though more complex and oblique - and it's a movie that showcases Lee's flair for period detail and genre stylisation.
For his sheer muscular verve and ambition, Lee deserves a standing ovation. Orson Welles was described once as picking up a play with the confidence of a marksman picking up a rifle, and that is exactly how I felt Lee handles this source material: a short story by Eileen Chang. He has given Tony Leung a chance to shine with one of the most charismatic and memorable performances of his career, and in the twentysomething newcomer Tang Wei, he has made a tremendous discovery. Fiercely intelligent and hauntingly beautiful, she gives a passionate, courageous performance that deserves a shelf-full of awards; it's already made her an Asian movie-star to rival Zhang Ziyi.

Lust, Caution is an erotic espionage drama, a little like Hitchcock's Notorious in its plot, set in Japanese-occupied China in the second world war. Tang Wei plays Wong Chia Chi, an unassuming young college student who in 1939 finds herself left behind in Hong Kong when her father flees to England. But Wong is to find her calling when she is invited to join a theatre troupe performing patriotic plays, the purpose of which is to raise cash for the homeland's defence. Her performances are electrifying, and the collection tins are chinking, but their leader Kuang (Wang Leehom) is impatient with mere play-acting. He wants to use their talents for more direct action: namely, an elaborate sting that will ensnare the hated collaborationist police chief Yee, played by Tony Leung. Wong will seduce him by pretending to be a bored married woman in search of adventure, and once Yee's guard is down, he will be assassinated.
The plan ends in bloody catastrophe, and Yee gets away, reappearing in Shanghai in 1942, where Wong also fetches up and the official resistance contact her with a message: they were impressed with her amateur attempt and the plan is back on. She must begin the seduction anew, but this time both hunter and hunted are older and more careworn; idealism has become clouded with fear and exhaustion, and does each suspect what the other is up to? There is a whiff of sulphur in the air along with the whiff of sex. The conditions are in place for a love affair of intense eroticism, obsession and betrayal.

The sex scenes have a glorious impact, all the more so for the long, burning fuse that precedes their detonation. Wong's sexual pre-history is made up of earlier, tragicomic scenes in which the poor innocent volunteers to be deflowered by a member of her resistance group, so that her virginal state will not give the game away. The spectacle of the young man doing his bit by doggedly thrusting away on top of Wong's tense, miserable body is horribly funny and un-erotic, a mirror image to the deadly serious sizzle of her later, passionate bedroom athletics with Yee. And whatever the ambiguity of her feelings for him, they assume a poignancy and even tragedy when we learn that Wong's emotions could have been engaged elsewhere, far earlier in the story.

Arguably, the sex scenes do not have the subtlety and nuance of Wong and Yee's flirtatious dinner in Hong Kong and the tension of their automobile ride home together, wondering whether or not Wong would be inviting Yee in for coffee. The ferocious, destructive passion, however, confers a retrospective intensity on these moments, and a piquancy too: a sense that in those days their dangerous game had, if hardly innocence exactly, then a more manageable kind of pleasure.

There is tremendous sweep and potency here; the streetscapes in Shanghai are spectacular and it's a wonderfully satisfying experience, though it has to be said that the film does not offer the same unmediated insight into the minds and hearts of its lovers that Brokeback Mountain did. Fundamentally, we all felt that we knew, really knew, what it felt like for the two cowboys to be in love; here the question is a little more difficult. Of course, it is a different sort of film, and this alienation and emotional occlusion is a central part of what Lust, Caution is about. It is another resounding success for Ang Lee, whose film-making has such mass and substance. His movies are like huge, exciting new buildings for us to gather round and wonder at.,,2234563,00.html
Back to top

Joined: 27 Jan 2003
Posts: 1691
Location: Hong Kong

PostPosted: Thu Jan 10, 2008 3:08 am    Post subject:

Lust, Caution ****

James Christopher
3 January 2008
The Times

Lust, Caution won the Golden Lion at the Venice Festival last September because it’s a film of pure nerve. Only a director as revered as Ang Lee could have shot a story about China as explicit and raw as this. The sex is brutal. The history is taboo. Tony Leung is a topflight informer in Shanghai in 1938, a rich and sophisticated Quisling who does night shifts for the Japanese.

His impeccable manners and wealthy background give Leung’s character Mr Yee unique access into the secret lives of his social and intellectual peers. He specialises in hunting down Chinese resistance fighters, and when time permits he attaches their genitals to the national grid. Not with any great glee. His flair for the job is matched only by his polished indifference to human emotion. Indeed that’s exactly what Mr Yee’s marriage is like to his chattering, empty-headed wife.

Tony Leung has played many inscrutable parts in his time, but the deep menace he generates simply by being well-dressed and polite is precisely why this film is such a gripping watch. The clever distraction is a beauty called Wang Jiazhi, and Tang Wei plays the young assassin quite brilliantly. How brilliantly will decide whether she lives or dies. She is a humble actress studying to be the next Jean Simmons. Her decision to cosy up to Mr Yee to bring him within murdering distance of a Chinese loyalist in a cupboard is the sort of plan that is doomed before anyone has actually thought of it.

The sex scenes between Leung and Wei have already sparked an international scandal – every detail is true. I felt helpless when Tony flung the groaning Wei face-down on a mattress to have his beastly way.

The critics are in seventh heaven. This is Ang Lee well and truly unplugged. The gentle Taiwanese director (although there are 32 websites sponsored by the Chinese Government that remind us that their Oscar-winning hero is indisputedly related to Mao) is rapidly becoming a cause célèbre. Lust, Caution is Lee’s erotic masterpiece. This is China’s X-rated riposte to Nagisa Oshima’s Ai No Corrido.

The hardcore yoga makes Broke-back Mountain’s gay shenanigans look like interval drinks. The intensity of the sex is far more honest and revealing than the secrets each lover tries to hide. That’s the beating heart of the film. The real shock is how much Wei seems to enjoy the graphic sadism. Leung is absolutely ferocious in the sack. He rips Wei’s clothes off as if they were so much wrapping paper. Moments later he leaps back into his Sunday best.

It’s no mystery that the Chinese censors skinned seven minutes out of the film. Until they invent a rating system – which has been on the Communist Party’s to-do list since 1926 – the local fans will have to scribble their own fantasies around Wei’s startled looks and Leung’s Roger Moore eyebrows. At more than two and a half hours the film could easily shed half a dozen further slices of overdressed drama. But every layer tells a guilty story.
Back to top

Joined: 27 Jan 2003
Posts: 1691
Location: Hong Kong

PostPosted: Thu Jan 10, 2008 3:12 am    Post subject:

Trapped in rapture - Lust, Caution *****

By Nigel Andrews and Karl French
2 January 2008
Financial Times

Ang Lee’s Lust, Caution is quietly mesmerising. With its dark, sleek, fugitive grace, it is like watching life reflected in the bodywork of a polished Rolls-Royce. Everyone is on the move in this tale of conspiracy in Japanese-occupied China, where a pretty girl (Tang Wei), working for a radical group of students-turned-actors, sets out to seduce and prime for assassination a VIP collaborator (Tony Leung). At the same time, Lee’s second Venice Golden Lion winner in three years (the first was Brokeback Mountain) is a glacial film noir, an icy slab of history (1937-42) that freezes people in consecutive poses – courage, imposture, desire, despair – as if still awaiting the animating purr of the projector.

Just like Brokeback Mountain, another tale of doomed romance drawn from a woman author (here it is China’s Eileen Chang), Lust, Caution is about people caught in a vice between the ecstasy of love and the agony of moral choice. Lee has a wonderful new actress in Tang Wei. Her demure prettiness a little louche about the mouth and jawline, she is a doll who can also be a slut. This spy-conspirator falls helplessly into the trap of the sadomasochistic raptures her victim/lover lavishes on her in extended scenes of eye-popping, graphic sex.

Largely shot in a studio, the film is a hothouse fantasy of 70-years-ago Hong Kong and Shanghai, as airless as Brokeback Mountain was open-range. But claustrophobia is the point: everyone is trapped, the plotters and plotted-against. Sex is narcotic chamber music, for two players and no audience (except us). Murder must be noiseless, furtive and brutal, as in the gang’s improvised killing of a potential whistle-blower (very Torn Curtain). When the group takes a rare trip to a deserted beach for shooting practice, the light and sea air go to what is left of their brains – “We’ve got the guns, why don’t we shoot a couple of easy targets before school starts?” – and the film hints at the anarchy lapping at these ideologues’ lives.

In the city it is always dusk or darkness, as swish cars swish from the colonial drives or street trams carry their freight of anonymity-hugging schemers. Lee has an extraordinary talent for qui vive watchfulness in close-ups. The film’s impassive faces will always, at some point, open a trapdoor into self-revelation. The darker the film gets, the more poignant these points of light or epiphany.

It’s a classic plot: love versus political loyalty. Imagine Aida and Notorious thrown together in a shaker, the final cocktail blending period exoticism with tenebrous tension and mordant nihilism. The ending is bleak indeed: those who live by mendacity will die by it. Only in a world where cruelty is for consenting sensual play between adults, not coercive historical destiny, can love and freedom exist for those who want both, with or without a twist of the perverse.
Back to top

Joined: 04 Jan 2008
Posts: 44
Location: Canada

PostPosted: Thu Jan 10, 2008 5:15 am    Post subject: "A mesmerising study in emotional cruelty"

Lust, Caution (2008)
Reviewed by Paul Arendt
Updated 02 January 2008 Contains strong sex

Ang Lee's follow up to Brokeback Mountain is another tale of forbidden passion, but instead of dewy-eyed cowboys, the lovers are opponents in a deadly game of espionage. In Japanese occupied Shanghai, a young woman named Wong Chia Chi (Tei Wang) is recruited by the resistance to seduce the powerful Mr Yee (Tony Leung), a collaborator with the invaders. Over the course of several years, their relationship develops from mutual deception into a terrible sado-masochistic dependence.

Lust, Caution sees Ang Lee using the sedate formality of his earliest releases to tell a far more explosive story. Be warned: this is a film which proceeds at exactly its own pace, allotting as much screen time to the gossip of society ladies playing Mah-Jong as it does to a heart-stoppingly brutal killing. Much fuss has been made of the extremely frank sexual encounters between Leung and Tang, but the controversy is pointless: the sex is integral to the film. More than that even; the sex is the film. That title says it all really, Lust, Caution exists in the uneasy territory between orgasmic abandonment and suspicion. It's more like a chess game than a romance.


Leung and Tang, the old timer and the newcomer, both submerge themselves in the emotional muck with enormous courage, and Lee frames their helpless struggles with the cool detachment of a lepidopterist pinning a butterfly. This is a stern, steely film that requires considerable patience, but stick with it for long enough and you'll be rewarded with a mesmerising study in emotional cruelty.

Lust, Caution is out in the UK on 4th January 2008.[/url]
Pour l'essentiel, l'homme est ce qu'il cache - André Malraux
Back to top

Joined: 04 Jan 2008
Posts: 44
Location: Canada

PostPosted: Thu Jan 10, 2008 5:22 am    Post subject:

From Empireonline:

Lust, Caution

The year is 1942 in occupied Shanghai, and a society woman walks into a café and makes a phone call. In flashback, we discover that she is Wong Chia Chi (Tang), a drama student turned spy on a secret mission to facilitate the assassination of Mr Yee (Leung), a hated collaborator.


You have to marvel at Ang Lee’s ability to take short stories and turn them into modern epics, as he did with Brokeback Mountain and has done again with this steamy take on Eileen Chang’s 68-page not-even-a-novella. Is he transported by parking tickets? Is every menu he reads a potential Lawrence Of Arabia? If we sent him three postcards would he give you the new Lord Of The Rings trilogy? But however the muse strikes him, Lee is one of the few directors working today who actually seems to have a handle on the concept of time, and though Lust, Caution has its seeming longueurs, this is a film of deceptive subtlety that springs shut in its final moments like a steel trap.

Working in his native Mandarin again, Lee is clearly having fun with audience preconceptions, opening his film with a mah jong game that, though it reveals plenty about the milieu we’re about to move in, will pose quite a challenge for slow readers of subtitles. It will also baffle those who have heard only that this is Lee’s most sexually explicit film to date. Given that Lee’s forte so far has been turning his hand to every possible genre and sub-genre - literary adaptation (Sense And Sensibilty), the Western (Ride With The Devil), comic book movie (Hulk) - one could be forgiven for thinking, after reading the advance press, that here, at last, is the master craftsman’s porno.

But although it does tip its hat to Nagisa Oshima’s erotic classic Ai No Corrida (In The Realm Of The Senses) when the raunchiness finally arrives, this is not a film about sex but about sacrifice and obsession. Providing the first half of this equation is Tang Wei, a beautiful first-timer who is quite extraordinary in the role of Wong. Sent to infiltrate the household of Mr Yee, a governor responsible for the deaths of many Chinese rebels, Wong has a number of masks to wear at any given time, first persuading Mrs Yee that she is a socialite named Mrs Mak, and ultimately responding to Mr Yee’s vicious and, visually, shocking advances. Finally, she has to deal with the radical underground movement that is paying her - but is she still happy to be a pawn in their game?

Playing opposite her and sparking off this delicate, nuanced performance is Hong Kong star Tony Leung as the wolfish Mr Yee. To those used to seeing Leung as a melancholy matinee idol in the films of Wong Kar-Wei - most notably the lush, romantic In The Mood For Love, in which he played a shy, sympathetic cuckold - his work here is extraordinary, unleashing a previously hidden and wholly uncharacteristic mean streak. But as time unfolds, My Yee’s cruelty stops being simply vile and starts to become fascinating, and even paradoxical, infusing a potentially two-dimensional moustache-twirling villain with humanity and pathos, leading to a terrific, unexpectedly amusing scene in a jewellery shop when Wong’s conflicting emotions finally boil over. However, this is not a feelgood story of beauty meeting beast, and when Wong’s facade eventually breaks down, Lee’s story finally jerks into a focus. It may seem like a long time getting there, but when Lust, Caution finally reels you in, the payoff is both provocative and satisfying. More importantly, you may find yourself heading for the door thinking, maybe, just maybe, you could have sat through just a little bit more...
A beautifully rendered, long, drawn-out but ultimately very satisfying story of betrayal and revenge in an uneasy setting of wartime paranoia.

Reviewer: Damon Wise
Pour l'essentiel, l'homme est ce qu'il cache - André Malraux
Back to top
Display posts from previous: Forum Index -> Tony Leung Movies All times are GMT - 8 Hours
Goto page Previous  1, 2, 3, 4, 5  Next
Page 3 of 5

Jump to:  
You cannot post new topics in this forum
You cannot reply to topics in this forum
You cannot edit your posts in this forum
You cannot delete your posts in this forum
You cannot vote in polls in this forum

Powered by phpBB © 2001, 2005 phpBB Group