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

PostPosted: Fri Feb 08, 2008 10:08 am    Post subject:

From the Daily Yomiuri Online

'Lust, caution' pyschologically powerful
Ikuko Kitagawa / Daily Yomiuri Staff Writer

Lust, Caution

4.5 stars out of five

Dir: Ang Lee

Cast: Tony Leung, Tang Wei, Joan Chen, Wang Leehom

The sadistic and ruthless sex scenes in Ang Lee's Lust, Caution are so shockingly powerful that some viewers may be overwhelmed and even wonder why the movie was awarded the Golden Lion for the best film at last year's Venice Film Festival.

The answer can be found in the climax to the film, when the audience can see that this forbidden love affair between a female spy and her intended target would not work without those scenes.

In 1938 Hong Kong, Wong Chia Chi (Tang Wei) is a college student who escaped from China after the Japanese invasion. She joins a drama club after she is invited by the patriotic Kuang (Wang Leehom), for whom she has a soft spot. One day, Kuang Yu Min plots to kill a pro-Japan official, Yee (Tony Leung), who is a top spy for the puppet Chinese regime, and asks Wong and her friends to lend him a hand. Her mission is to act as a young wife, Mak, who becomes friends with Yee's wife (Joan Chen) as a way to approach Yee and seduce him. Yee is enchanted by Mak's fresh beauty, but too cautious to put himself off guard against her. For their first meeting alone at a restaurant, Yee walks her to the door but doesn't come inside her house although Mak tells him that her "husband" is away that night. His attitude jars Mak's, and the audience's, expectations. It's an example of how good Lee is at heightening tension between the two, and leaves us eager to know how Yee will act if he sees her again.

They don't meet for a while after that, and the second time they encounter each other is in 1942 in Shanghai. This time, Yee accedes to Mak's seduction and madly makes love to her--the moment when his lust overcomes caution. Mak laughs up her sleeve at seeing him "trapped." But she doesn't know yet that she is the one who is emotionally trapped. Mak still has a mission to kill him, and this time her responsibility is heavier--to go through with it or take her own life if she fails--as she has now been trained as a professional spy. With strong feelings for Yee, she now has to choose love or life.

In September, critics and reporters in Venice criticized the decision to honor the film, which a Reuters report at the time described as a "slow narrative...punctuated by explicit and sometimes violent sex, which Lee hinted was real." At 158 minutes, it is long, but Lee also directed the award-winning Brokeback Mountain, and that lasts for 134 minutes. Anyone who enjoyed that film will probably tolerate the length of Lust, Caution, because the two movies are similar in their low-key, low-action feel, but psychologically work upon our emotions.

Watching violent sex on the big screen can be off-putting, but it's filmed beautifully and, more importantly, it is needed to show the transition in Mak's feelings toward Lee. Mak at first assures us that she's winning the love game every time she makes love, but his sadism gets under her skin and makes her nervous. Eventually she comes to believe that sex is the only way to connect with his furtive mind.

Leung must have taken a risk to play this cold-hearted character, which completely alters his soft image and also excites us toward the ending as he keeps Yee's inner face intriguingly concealed. New actress Tang also balances slyness with purity in the female spy.

(Thanks to Hong)
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Joined: 04 Jan 2008
Posts: 44
Location: Canada

PostPosted: Fri Feb 08, 2008 10:10 pm    Post subject:


In Sight/Cinema & Arts: New Ang Lee film flaunts taboo with style


Taiwanese director Ang Lee's two most recent films are seemingly worlds apart. In "Brokeback Mountain" (2005), two American cowboys discover they are heartbreakingly in love, in an environment that is violently opposed to their feelings. In his new film, the Chinese-language "Se, Jie" (Lust, Caution), a traditional Chinese woman becomes a spy who plies her trade through seduction.

And yet, Lee says the films have so much in common they could be "sisters." Not only were both based on short stories written by female authors, but they also have themes that expose some terrible cruelties of life: forbidden love and impossible romance.

"Each one touches on a taboo in its society," Lee said through an interpreter at a recent press conference in Tokyo. "It was scary to deal with such subjects."

But he carried on, and thus created a remarkable tale of gay cowboys in the male-dominated American West. And now he has taken up the subject of a Chinese woman torn between love and her patriotic duty.

Based on a short story by Eileen Chang, "Lust, Caution" is set in 1942 in Shanghai, then under Japanese occupation during World War II. The stylish thriller and sensual love story centers on the alluring female spy Wong Chia Chi (Tang Wei).

Representing herself as the wife of a wealthy businessman, she seduces the sinister Mr. Yee (Hong Kong star Tony Leung), a high-ranking intelligence officer working for the Japanese-controlled puppet government. The goal is to get him assassinated.

We get a look at her background in a flashback to her college days in Hong Kong. Wong is smart, if naive, when she joins a patriotic college theater group led by the dashing and revolutionary Kuang Yu Min (Wang Leehom), whom Wong adores. The troupe members become resistance fighters.

As played by newcomer Tang, Wong's dramatic transformation from college girl to daring, mature woman is stunning.

To find the right actress, Lee auditioned 10,000 candidates.

The first time Lee saw Tang, he thought she was beautiful, even though her face was drawn because she had a cold. He instantly knew the role was hers.

"Her temperament, her manner of speaking and demeanor, all those things matched with women in my parents' generation. ... I felt I had finally found the classical Chinese beauty I was looking for. I was so thrilled."

At the same press conference, Tang said she spent three months before the film shoot studying the history, customs and lifestyles of the 1930s and '40s. She learned how to play mah-jongg and what songs were popular back then.

To boost their communication and onscreen chemistry, the actors even played basketball and sang songs around a piano together, she said.

For the Wong role, such preparation must have been key.

The character's seduction plan goes well at first. But she has miscalculated--she falls in love with her enemy when she develops a sexually charged relationship with Mr. Yee.

In delving into her sexuality and emotions, the film contains intense and graphic sex scenes. Lee said he thinks these explicit scenes are pivotal to the film because they reveal the true nature of the characters. He said Wong wants to prove herself to Mr. Yee through sex, that she wants him to believe her emotions. And she eventually succeeds.

"So the bedroom scenes are important," Lee said. "What I show here is not only carnal desire but also human emotion."

Lee spent 12 days shooting the three bedroom scenes on a closed set. The two leading actors gave him "the ultimate performance," he said.

For "Lust, Caution," Lee received his second Golden Lion, the top honor at the Venice Film Festival, in 2007. (He won his first for "Brokeback Mountain.") And no wonder. The film's fast-paced plot builds tension from beginning to end. This surprisingly elegant and intriguing espionage thriller reminds you once again why Lee is one of the world's most respected filmmakers.

The U.S.-based director said he likes to make a Chinese-language film after shooting several English-language ones--the Chinese films require more energy, and he feels more pressure directing them.

"Winning an Oscar [for "Brokeback Mountain"] gave me power and financial ability. If I hadn't won it, it might have been difficult to make this film," he said. "I guess the Shanghai studio might not have offered such great human and financial resources if I hadn't won an Oscar. I realized how powerful an Oscar can be. This movie is just my life itself."

And from the Kalamazoo Gazette

Sleeping with the enemy
February 07, 2008 09:13AM

Ang Lee's 'Lust, Caution' is a stylishly seductive spy story


Elegant, erotic and enormously atmospheric, director Ang Lee's "Lust, Caution" pays tribute the picturesque romantic epics director David Lean used to make ("Doctor Zhivago," "A Passage to India") with a slow-boiling sensuality that eventually runs wild.
Lee takes his time seducing his audience -- there's plenty of furtive flirting before the central couple finally demonstrates why the film earned an NC-17 rating -- but patience pays off: This is a movie as delicate and enticing as a satin sheet.
Adapted from a short story by Chinese writer Eileen Chang, "Lust" peers into the two worlds of Wong Chia Chi (Tang Wei, who glides easily from vulnerability to sophisticated chic), a college student in the late 1930s/early 1940s who is drawn into a plot to assassinate Mr. Yee (Tony Leung), a businessman who is suspected of collaborating with the Japanese.

Using the skills she picked up in drama club, Wong slips into the fashionable shoes of Mrs. Mak, a cosmopolitan who works her way into the mah jong parties hosted by Yee's wife (Joan Chen) and eventually catches the eye of her target. Luring him into the line of fire turns out to be considerably trickier than Wong suspects, however, and an assignment that seemed simple turns out to be fraught with emotional pitfalls; Wong, it seems, is not nearly as worldly as the character she's portraying.

A businessman (Tony Leung) and a young woman (Tang Wei) posing as a sophisticate become entangled in a dangerous romance in 1930s China in "Lust, Caution."
Although Lee's pacing seems languid at times, that serves to heighten the sultry atmosphere. There's almost always tension in the air and commonplace objects and details tend to take on ominous meanings: The mah jong tiles the ladies push around the table look almost like tiny tombstones, and when Wong leaves lipstick marks on teacups and cocktail glasses they might as well be traces of blood.
Alexandre Desplat's luscious score floats through the background like a moth in the moonlight, and the combination of Rodrigo Prieto's shimmering, ravishingly lovely cinematography and the opulent costumes of Pan Lai create a paradise for the eyes. While some viewers may find "Lust, Caution" to be too ponderous, those willing to surrender to Lee's gorgeous chronicle of espionage and betrayal will be startled, tantalized and thrilled.
Pour l'essentiel, l'homme est ce qu'il cache - André Malraux
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