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

<Lust, Caution> Articles Collection
Goto page 1, 2, 3, 4  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 18, 2007 4:34 am    Post subject: <Lust, Caution> Articles Collection

Million thanks to summertime for her efforts in collecting a wide range of materials on <Lust, Caution>. As there are numerous articles on the movie, I try to gather them together under this thread as far as possible.

Cautious eroticism - Jason Anderson

Ang Lee and the power of performance - Moira Macdonald

The Principal and His Players - Ada Tseng

Ang Lee, “outsider” - N.P. Thompson

Ang Lee courts controversy - Peter Howell

More lust than 'Caution' from Lee - Bruce Newman

'Lust, Caution' sex scenes challenge conventions - Chris Vognar

Working from the dark side - Katherine Monk

Lust, Caution ladies - Martin Wong

Ang Lee's Latest - Wu Yiqing

Ang Lee says obsession with love is part of his art - Deutsche Presse-Agentur

Ang Lee Brings 'Lust, Caution' to America - Emily Christianson

Ang Lee expresses 'Caution', Tang Wei gets method for 'Lust' - Libby McCarthy

Ang Lee Explains Relationship Between Lust and Caution - Ben Hamamoto

Ang Lee's look at 'Lust, Caution' - Ellen McCarthy

Lee comes home to northern California film fest - Kirk Honeycutt

Confronting Sexual Themes Head-On - Andrew Huang

Beyond 'portraying gay cowboys for America' - Leah McLaren

Ang Lee hopes to film a comedy - Kevin Williamson

'Lust' in translation - Howard Gensler

Ang time, Lee approaches Lust with Caution - Peter Keough

Ang Lee's hard sell - Ian Spelling

The passion (and lust) of Ang Lee - John Wheeler

Ang Lee's 'Lust, Caution' has sense and sensuality - Lewis Beale

All the right people - Michael Cheang

Happily dogged by controversy - James Robinson

The clash of symbols - Stephen Phelan

Ang Lee's Lust, Caution could buck the NC-17 trend - Geoffrey Macnab

Proceed with Lust, Caution - James Christopher

'Fang' Lee: cruel but true - Stephanie Bunbury

Ang Lee: A passion too hot for China - David Gritten

Interview: Ang Lee Rolls Back the Years - Martin Croucher

Ang Lee celebrates golden success of "Lust, Caution" - Mairi Mackay

War, not sex, makes the history books - Geoffery McNab

Ang Lee Explores His Sexy Side - Logan Hill

Q&A with Ang Lee - Rebecca Winters Keegan

Ang Lee shares 'Lust' for life, filmmaking - Susan Wloszczyna

Caution, Ang Lee crossing: a roundtable with the "Lust, Caution" director and star - Kimberly Chun

Larchmont's Ang Lee will sacrifice audience for art - Kevin Canfield

Last edited by Info on Tue Jan 15, 2008 6:05 am; edited 5 times in total
Back to top

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

PostPosted: Thu Oct 18, 2007 4:35 am    Post subject:

Cautious eroticism

The normally subtle Ang Lee lives up to the title of his latest film, and surprises himself in the process

By Jason Anderson

Starring Tang Wei, Tony Leung. Written by James Schamus, Hui-Ling Wang from a story by Eileen Chang. Directed by Ang Lee. (18A) 156 min. Opens Oct 5.

What with the mostly restrained nature of the dude-on-dude action in Brokeback Mountain, the sex scenes in Ang Lee's latest film are bound to startle viewers. That's not just because they're explicit enough to have garnered Lust, Caution a punitive NC-17 rating in the US. (In Ontario, it has the designation of 18A.) It's because the scenes in question are the most tension-filled, cruellest and, yes, hottest in the career of a director better known for portraying the subtlest ways of the heart than the motions of organs elsewhere.

“It drove me crazy,” says Lee of shooting Lust, Caution's most private moments. “It's very difficult to be so intimate. It's against my nature to do it. I like to keep a polite distance from people, to maintain a harmony, to be subtle. But this is nasty! Here the characters are ripping off layer by layer and it's very painful. Somehow, as an artist, you feel like you have to do it.”

In an interview last month at the Toronto International Film Festival – where Lust, Caution made its North American premiere a few days before winning the Golden Lion at Venice, an honour accorded his cowboy romance two years ago – the 52-year-old filmmaker admits that the scenes went further than he initially expected. That said, he knew that he had to do justice to his source material, a short story by Chinese writer Eileen Chang about a young woman (played in an amazing screen debut by Tang Wei) who aids a cell of resistance fighters in Japanese-occupied Shanghai during WWII by seducing a high-ranking official (Tony Leung) in the collaborationist government.

“It's called Lust, Caution, after all,” he says. “I knew I wanted to go deep down there and do something that hadn't been done before, though that doesn't mean much when it comes to sex scenes. But then I got along with the actors and helped them get into the characters. And I got greedy. I said to Tony, ‘For a great actor like you, if I don't torture you, I'm not paying enough respect to you!' For Tang Wei, she was just totally in character. She was able to do anything I asked.”

Tang – an actor and model who's also a graduate of the directing program at Beijing's Central Academy of Drama – also says that she felt more intimidated by the demands of her character than by those of her director. “There was pressure, of course,” she says, “but that was from the character. She has a lot of parts and different looks and very strong emotions. So that pressure existed because I was afraid I couldn't express all the emotions she has.”

Lest all this leave the impression that Lust, Caution is a non-stop shag-fest, it's important to note that this is still very much an Ang Lee film, with all the rich moments of languor and nuance that designation has come to imply in the years since his 1993 breakthrough hit The Wedding Banquet. Indeed, the “nasty” reputation that preceded Lust, Caution's premiere may have caused early viewers to lose patience with its slow-burn pacing, which is instrumental in creating the tension levels in the film's final hour.

Its sumptuousness as a period piece may also call attention away from its unusual use of elements of melodrama and film noir. What Lee has done is adapt the vocabulary of Hollywood cinema of the '40s to an Asian sensibility and locale – not for nothing does Lust, Caution make nods to films such as Hitchcock's Notorious, a movie that explored matters of love and deceit to similarly disquieting effect.

“When I read the short story,” says Lee, “I thought it was kind of written like a movie already – even a film noir. Chang was a big movie fan – later in her career, she wrote screenplays for Cathay Studio. So I suspect movies like Notorious affected her, as well as the German film Dishonored. Casablanca was another influence, except this story is its flipside.”

Tang's character, Wang Jiazhi, is an avid moviegoer and the film strongly implies that she sees herself as one of the heroines she sees on screen. Lee agrees that Jiazhi only feels truly herself “when she's playing a character,” which provokes troubling questions about the slippery nature of identity. “When she gets away from reality, she ends up touching a truth in herself,” says Lee. “It's all about performance, pretending that you're the real deal and somehow becoming it. That's the irony and what I think the movie is about.”

Tang is less sure that Jiazhi sees herself as a movie character when she takes on the role of “Mrs. Mak,” the woman who entrances Leung's suave but brutish Mr. Yee. Rather, “she just found a very good way to find herself and express herself. It makes her very open and free to be herself so it's an important change for her.”

It's hard not to wonder if the hostility with which the film has been received in some quarters is due to gender difference. Men and women may have very different takes on a heroine whose personality is in a constant state of flux, as well as a story that explores the darkest recesses of female desire.

In Lee's view, Lust, Caution has a particularly feminine if not exactly feminist sensibility. “This is a story by a very gutsy, brilliant woman writer,” he says. “I think the direction both the story and the movie go is pretty inevitable. I don't purposely do this – I'm not a feminist since I'm a man! – but one aim is to deconstruct a historical, patriarchal society. When a woman is not collaborating with or submitting to this, it can be very destructive. And for us men, seeing a story about this can be a very introspective experience – it's a great way to examine who we are.”

Even so, Lust, Caution may take viewers further down than they're willing to go. “And when you get down there,” Lee notes, “it's pretty scary.”
Back to top

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

PostPosted: Thu Oct 18, 2007 4:41 am    Post subject:

Ang Lee and the power of performance
By Moira Macdonald

Seattle Times movie critic

Many years ago, long before Ang Lee became the acclaimed maker of films like "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" and "Brokeback Mountain," he was an 18-year-old kid falling in love with the art of acting. And those first tentative moments, on a student stage in Taiwan, are what directly led to his newest film: "Lust, Caution," set in 1940s occupied Shanghai, opening Friday at the Egyptian.

Lee discussed his inspirations for the movie in recent conversations at the Toronto International Film Festival and in Seattle, where he was honored at a Seattle International Film Festival tribute on Sunday. Based on a short story by Eileen Chang, "Lust, Caution" is the tale of a young woman whose life is transformed, dangerously and thrillingly, by performance. A student actor, she joins a group of radical students bent on assassinating a powerful political figure and changes her identity to infiltrate his world. Early in the film, we see her after her first stage performance, outside on a rainy night; she's breathless and dazzled by the new art she's mastering.

"I'm like that girl, basically," Lee said, in his soft voice. "She's awakening. She feels the power." He remembered his own walk in the night, in the drizzling rain, after a first performance. "There's something funny about acting — you become empowered," he said. He was "a repressed kid, never allowed to touch art, only academic work. I flunked the college examinations, and I went to art school to prepare for the next year. By chance, I was on stage. I realized the rest of my life. So, when I read that in the short story, I decided to do it."

Though Lee quickly learned, as a young adult, that he'd rather direct movies than act on stage (after moving to the U.S. in his 20s, he studied film production at New York University), his love for acting echoes through his work — Heath Ledger's previously unseen, powerful subtlety in "Brokeback Mountain"; Kate Winslet's exuberance bursting from the screen in "Sense and Sensibility." "I'm still zealous about performing art, except that I don't do it with my own body," he said. "I have to tear actors apart so they do it for me."

He does this through meticulous research, preparing for months before first meeting with actors. (One exception: "Sense and Sensibility," a work-for-hire project for which he was brought on fairly late in the process, still speaking little English. "It was very scary!" he remembered. "I was like 30 years behind everyone.") He gives the actors an "initial pitch," then rehearses to see what the actors give back. "The beginning of a rehearsal is almost like improvisation," he said. "I see what they give me and then I take over, take control."

For "Lust, Caution," his two leading actors came with very different backgrounds and required different kinds of direction. To play Mr. Yee, the subject of the planned assassination, Lee chose Tony Leung Chiu-wai, a veteran of Asian cinema perhaps best known to Western audiences for his love-struck work in "In the Mood for Love." Accustomed to playing the hero, he took on a much darker role.

"With Tony, you know he's going to go through a sophisticated process, so with him you should be more suggestive. I don't give him much information; he will digest himself, do something of his own."

In the role of the young actress turned spy, Tang Wei makes her feature-film debut. Lee's casting team looked at "over 10,000" young actresses before choosing her.

"When I met her, I just believed such a story would happen to someone like her," Lee said. "She feels to me like a fish out of water; she belonged to that era. Also, I see myself as the girl, and I very much identified with her." With Tang Wei, Lee gave advice more directly. "She believes in you when you pitch her an idea ... like a child actor, simple and very direct."

Lee, who tends to alternate English-language projects with Asian films, said he has a different process depending on what language he's working in. "English [-speaking] actors, they seem to have more ideas, it's part of the culture," he said. "When I speak in Chinese, I am more in command. I talk a lot, very demanding. [Chinese-speaking actors] have a more submissive kind of attitude to the director, that's just the culture."

The winner of the Golden Lion at the Venice International Film Festival, "Lust, Caution" recently had its Asian premiere in Taiwan, with Lee in attendance. "It was a very, very special experience in my life," he said. "I was so nervous that day. I'm something of a golden boy there, so emotionally I'm all attached, especially for something like this, a very personal film."

The film also opened in New York this past weekend, setting a quick box-office record for foreign-language films in exclusive runs.

Though he says making this film exhausted him (noting that recreating '40s Shanghai, mostly through sets, is much harder than Jane Austen's England), he's touched by the audience responses, seeing in them a trace of his own first thrill in connecting with an audience, long ago. And he looks forward to his next project, whatever it may be, keeping in touch with his first love. "As far as I'm concerned, I perform with cameras," he said. "I always see myself as performing."

Moira Macdonald: 206-464-2725 or
Back to top

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

PostPosted: Thu Oct 18, 2007 9:11 am    Post subject:

The Principal and His Players
By Ada Tseng

Torment and obsession both create and become the art in the hands of director Ang Lee -- whose latest film Lust, Caution explores sexuality and occupation in wartime Shanghai.

Interview translations by Junzhi Li and Winghei Kwok.

Lust, Caution has had its fair share of controversial headlines in the past month -- from the salacious (the undisputed NC-17 rating) to the political (A "Taiwan, China" categorization at Venice angered Taiwan's Mainland Affairs council) to the "critical" (its Golden Lion win despite mixed reviews).

The meticulously-executed sex scenes warranting the NC-17 have been much discussed, but the danger of terrifying children into thinking sex always involves lies, emotionally-torturous power play, and abusive Asian men seems to be just as good of a reason for the rating as its explicit nature. The Taiwan-China political storm, which Ang Lee inevitably gets caught up in from time to time, solicited a poignant "You know where I come from" shrug from the director at the Venice Film Festival.

At the Los Angeles press event in the Beverly Hills Four Seasons Hotel, Lee engaged in some thoughtful discussion about the different international responses to his film, summing up much of the critical jabs with a Chinese idiom: dui niu tan qing, which translates literally to "playing a musical instrument to a cow" -- there's no use debating it; you're just speaking to the wrong audience.

"They said the film is too long and boring," says Ang Lee, referring to the film's most popular American criticism, "But when I saw it in Taiwan, I felt it was too fast, that you don't even have time to enjoy it. There's too much content."

So far, Asian audiences have been extremely supportive. Lust, Caution recently broke the NT$100 million dollar mark in Taiwan and has done considerable business in Hong Kong and Malaysia. Americans critics have been slower to warm up to it, but Lee anticipates that the film will be welcomed in Europe, as European viewers tend to be more intrigued by learning about other cultures through film.

"Americans are more subjective," observes Lee. "They think a movie should be a certain way, and if it's not, then it has failed. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon met their standards and requests, so they were interested in it, even if it was just met by a little. That type of film language is global. To [Americans], it was just like a fairy tale, kind of a fantasy. But this one [Lust, Caution] is about hardboiled history and drama."

Conversely, the reception for an American-acclaimed film like Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon was shakier in Asia. "Martial arts films are basically [expected to be] a 'low quality' type of film, but it's very welcomed in Taiwan," says Lee. "But then it came to the mainland and Hong Kong, and we got totally different responses. Hong Kongers have already tired of this; they don't want to see more. While mainlanders thought this type of movie was just to please the foreigners, since it is so popular in America."

It's tough to please everyone as an Oscar-winning director, but this time around, Lust, Caution -- his first Chinese-language film after a series of high-profile American films -- had wormed itself deeper into his heart. Lee had read Eileen Chang's devastating short story of the same name, and despite his fears, he couldn't resist the temptation to transform it onto the screen.

While making Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon was more about fulfilling his childhood dreams and making people "fly in the sky," Lee took the task of representing 1930-40s Shanghai, Chinese loyalty during the anti-Japanese war, and female sexuality psychology (not often explored in mainstream Chinese writing) very seriously.

At first, he wasn't sure if the mainland would give him permission to film there, due to the political and graphic nature of the film. But at the end of the day, ("Thanks to the Oscar, I guess...") he was allowed to shoot in Hong Kong, Shanghai, Zhejiang, as well as parts of Malaysia. Lee figured it was because the story is set in the past and doesn't touch upon any issues of Communist Party (with the exception of a few KMT references that were harder to swallow) that the Chinese government was pretty supportive.

Paying respects and getting it right

Hong Kong film icon Tony Leung Chiu-wai was cast as Mr. Yee, a Chinese official working for Japanese occupiers. Mainland television actress Tang Wei plays Wong Chia Chi/Mrs. Mak, a woman enlisted to seduce Mr. Yee in a plot to assassinate him. New York-born Taiwanese pop star Wang Leehom was chosen as Kuang Yu Min, the patriotic student who joins the organized resistance. And, Shanghai-born international actress-director Joan Chen joined the production to play Mrs. Yee, Leung's discerning wife.

Through his casting as well as the numerous dialects, accents, and languages that you hear in Lust, Caution, Lee attempts to orchestrate a realistic portrayal of China and its diversity. This is even carried through to the ending credits, where the names of the cast and crew are written in both Traditional and Simplified Chinese, depending on where the person has come from: "to show respect to the people in China -- the workers," explains Lee.

"There are so many different accents of Chinese, from city to city," says Wang Leehom, "Even more so than in the U.S. You go from city to city and there are different accents for Mandarin."

"I should use [even] more dialects," says Lee. "The part in Hong Kong should be in Cantonese. But I think for distribution, Mandarin is more usable, even in Hong Kong. So I chose less important scenes to use more dialects."

The servants and people on the streets speak Shanghaiese. The workers at the jewelry store, including acclaimed Indian actor Anupam Kher in a small but pivotal role, speak English.

"I think it's important to give flavor," say Lee. "And also to remind people that there are a lot of foreigners, that speak Italian, English...."

Another way he preserved authenticity was by choosing to use Southern Mandarin, not the Beijing Mandarin that is prevalently dubbed over many Chinese TV series. ("Just because Beijing offers the most jobs, doesn't mean that [everyone speaking with the Beijing accent] is real," says Lee.) Even with Tang Wei, who grew up in the Southern city of Hangzhou but went to school and worked in Beijing, Lee tried to bring her accent down.

"Ang was very particular about the accent he wanted me to speak with my character," says Wang Leehom, referring to the southern Chinese accent, nanfang guoyu. "It's what he considers to be the biaozhun, or standard. He was very specific. He didn't want me to speak with jingpianzi and the juanshe or the Taiwan accent."

"I purposely cast everyone South of the Yangzhou River," jokes Lee. "I rejected everyone north of [it.]"

This type of attention to detail came across not just in the language training, but in all the homework Ang Lee devised for the actors (especially feature film novices Tang Wei and Wang Leehom) -- deluging them with information about the characters and time period: films to watch, books to read, World War II history lessons, etiquette lessons, calligraphy lessons, mahjong lessons. By the end, they called him xiaozhang, or principal. And just like in the film, the torture and the pleasure became intertwined.

"I think I enjoy the torment," muses Wei. "If the actors don't like the torment, then I don't think they can become good actors, because it's the director [Lee] himself that is most tormented -- not us. thinks about the movie 24 hours a day, thinking about it in his dreams."

"He's completely focused," agrees Joan Chen. "He talked about nothing else. No trivialities, just this film, this film, and this scene. Extremely obsessed. But it's the obsession that it takes to get you there."

"He's being tormented by three people," adds Wei. "I just think about Wong Chia Chi, Tony just thinks about Mr. Yee, and Leehom just thinks about Kuang Yu Min. But he thinks about them one by one, and from each character's angle. And from there, he has to think about the structure of the whole movie before he can direct us."

On directing Tony Leung, Ang Lee remarks: "I have a lot to say, and he doesn't speak. He looks at me like he's scared. I had never seen him like that. I think deep down in his heart he is happy to work with me. I told him, 'You're so talented. I will do you wrong if I don't torture you enough.' Then I tormented him and told him, 'I think you still have energy to go on,' and he goes, 'Yeah, you are right.' And he just keeps going. He is a rarity."

Now, after dedicating a year of his life to Lust, Caution and still running around promoting the film at numerous world, national, and city premieres, Lee isn't thinking about another Oscar. (Despite Taiwan's decision to enter Lust, Caution as their foreign language film nominee.) He just hopes that Chinese audiences will accept his practice of discussing sex and the anti-Japanese war together, through interconnected themes of the occupier vs. the occupied.

"Every time I make a film, I feel like it's time to retire," reflects Lee. "My health, my mind. Not only am I willing to dig it out, but every time I dig out something, I feel that it is the end. I can't stand the mental pressure, and I think about retirement. It was the same for this movie. But so far I haven't reached the end yet, because human capacity is bottomless."

Lee calls himself a slow bloomer. He made his martial arts movies with "a child's heart"; he only in recent years made films like Brokeback Mountain which are about romance, something he suspects people think about more when they're in their 20s. Now he feels more of his age at 52.

"Before, I would just go for it. Now, I balance my options before I decide what to do. On the other hand, I also see that I may regret not doing certain things.... If I don't make a [certain] movie, I will miss it forever. I will regret it; even history might regret it."

But he acknowledges, "The mental pressure is very high."
Back to top

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

PostPosted: Thu Oct 18, 2007 9:17 am    Post subject:

Ang Lee, “outsider”

NWAW sits down one-on-one with the Oscar-winning
director to discuss his latest film

By N.P. Thompson
Northwest Asian Weekly

Oct. 13, 2007

On a gray October morning in downtown Seattle, Ang Lee and I met to talk about his new movie, “Lust, Caution.” Although the film unfurls against a major event in Chinese history, the occupation of Shanghai by Japanese forces in the early 1940s, Lee narrows his focus from the war at large to a boudoir battlefield. The combatants are Tony Leung, in a demonic turn as a collaborationist dedicated to snuffing out resistance fighters, and superb newcomer Tang Wei, as an insecure student actress who lands the role of a lifetime: spying for Chinese nationalists and bedding down with the enemy. Their sex scenes are explicit, the milieu around them fatalistic and slippery.

Lee, who turns 53 later this month, told me that he keeps the Best Director Academy Award he won for “Brokeback Mountain” in the basement-level study of his New York home. While he acknowledges, “It’s a big deal for Asians, winning an Oscar,” he adds, “you can never use that as a mark of artistic achievement. You shouldn’t, because it’s a popular(ity) vote.”

Actors as dissimilar as Emma Thompson, Ziyi Zhang and Anne Hathaway have praised Lee for the hands-on, almost sculptural approach he takes in refining their performances. I asked him to describe his method of directing actors.

Lee: First tailor it (one-on-one), then you have to put them in the same movie. Balance each other out. I direct quite differently in English-language films from Chinese. Especially with Chinese, I’m much more authoritative. I do a lot of nonstop talking, give them lots of cultural stuff. (He laughs.)

With English, I’m more suggestive, more polite, a lot quieter, more observant. Well, you have to be observant either way. One thing that the Chinese actors found was that I seem to synch with them: What they’re thinking, I’m thinking. Maybe it’s because I performed before—I’m just sensitive to what they’re going through internally. I’m not an acting coach. I rehearse them, to see what I get from them before I decide how to shoot.

NWAW: What were your visual inspirations for the bedroom scenes in “Lust, Caution”? I’m thinking specifically of the aerial shot of yoga-like postures that the lovers contort themselves into.

Lee: That scene, mostly from French Impressionist paintings. Top shots, even in “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon,” in the midst of fight scenes, I like to pull up to the top, because it’s more subjective. It’s stimulation for the idea before I go in closer. I don’t know where I take that from; I just feel a need to step back. I guess I take it, in principle, from Epic Theatre—Brecht—detach and then attach again.

In the final scene (a close-up of the heroine’s body-imprinted bed linens), I’m taking more from Tibetan Kali Thangka, the religious painting, as a symbol of sacrifice, because (the place where the Tony Leung and Tang Wei characters end up) it’s like hell. In hell, you have to have wisdom to see through the pain and the struggle, and scare the evil spirit away. It has to be scary. That’s how Buddhas show their reality to you.

NWAW: You were once quoted as saying, “I trust the elusive world created by movies more than anything else.” Did you mean watching them or making them? I ask because your actress heroine appears to draw on movies as a kind of support system. At one point, she simply wanders around Shanghai going from film to film.

Lee: When (poor student) Wong Chia Chi plays (rich lady) Mak Tai Tai, that’s something she can trust more than her own life. All my life, I’m a drifter and an outsider. There’s not one single environment I can totally belong to. My cultural roots are something elusive—it’s the classic Chinese culture taught by my parents. So the world of making a movie is somehow like that: never really real. In a big way, that’s what “Lust, Caution” is about. Will she, as Mak Tai Tai, connect?

NWAW: Two years ago, you recorded an introduction for The Criterion Collection DVD of Ingmar Bergman’s “The Virgin Spring,” a film that had a tremendous impact on you as a student in Taiwan. Does Bergman continue to be an influence? Is there a trace of him in “Lust, Caution”?

Lee: During preproduction, I was told there would be a delay in the art direction, so I got a chance to go to his island to see the man himself. This was a spiritual pilgrimage, to give me the strength to finish this movie. “Lust, Caution” is more film noir than Bergman. It doesn’t ask where God is. It’s a much more Buddhist, existential deconstruct.

In the time we had together, he mostly asked how I worked with actors. And I said to him, sometimes I hate myself because I tear them apart to see myself. I tear them (he pantomimes ripping something in half), kill them to expose what’s underneath—that’s how I feel about my relationship with actors.

Bergman said, “You have to love your actors.” He was a very warm, lovely person. Because of “The Virgin Spring,” it felt like 30-some years ago the man took my innocence. And then years later, he gave me a very motherly hug. It’s a strange, miraculous, magic power. I never think the way I make movies has any relation to his; he’s like God to me. I will take inspiration. I won’t dare to imitate. But a hug is a hug, filmmaker to filmmaker.
Back to top

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

PostPosted: Thu Oct 18, 2007 9:21 am    Post subject:

Ang Lee courts controversy
Peter Howell

Ang Lee thought he could avoid the dreaded NC-17, because he made a movie that needed to be seen

October 05, 2007

Ang Lee makes the most unsuspecting of provocateurs, with his conservative business suit and shy smile. But that may be why he's so effective.

The Oscar-winning Taiwanese director knew exactly what he was doing when he filmed the sexy spy intrigue Lust, Caution, taken from a short story by Eileen Chang, a revered Chinese writer he compares to Jane Austen.

He set out to push limits by depicting graphic sex, even if it earned him a dreaded NC-17 in the U.S. – which is exactly what happened. The rating simply means no admission for those 17 and under, but many American cinemas won't show NC-17 movies and newspapers won't allow ads for them.

(In Ontario, the film has a more agreeable 18A rating: persons under 18 require adult accompaniment.)

Like many filmmakers, Lee hates the NC-17 rating. He thought he could use his clout to fight it, by making a movie that demands to be seen no matter what the obstacles. He'd already had a taste of controversy thanks to the uproar over the gay love in Brokeback Mountain, his previous film.

"In making this movie, there's a call, there's an obsession," Lee said, in an interview during the recent Toronto International Film Festival.

"There's a challenge there. I knew, and I think the actors knew, all the elements are there. How far can you go with acting? If we don't do this movie, we'll never do it again. So capture it while we can. It's the ultimate acting. Ultimate body language, ultimate performance that has to withstand the scrutiny of the interrogator. So what do you do? It's just too attractive."

Lee chose a veteran Chinese actor, Tony Leung Chiu Wai, and a rookie, Tang Wei, to play the most unlikely of lovers during wartime China. Leung plays a coward and sadist, in cahoots with the occupying Japanese; Wei's a virginal idealist, plotting assassination on behalf of patriotic dreamers.

Both seem unusual casting choices. Leung is best known to Western viewers as the quiet man who yearns for intimacy in Wong Kar-wai's In the Mood for Love, not the authoritarian whip-wielder he plays in Lust, Caution. Wei, meanwhile, was selected out of 10,000 women who auditioned, even though she has no previous film experience.

"I think he's our greatest actor," Lee says of Leung. "I wanted to work with a great actor, even though that means I have to challenge him. Great actors actually enjoy it. They say, `Ah, the torture, you're killing me!' But at the same time, they love you. I've never had so much satisfaction with an actor than working with Tony."

As for Wei, she seemed like the woman Eileen Chang was writing about, a woman bold enough to challenge strict Chinese moral codes.

"She looked like the person described in the short story, even though she's slim. I think most of all, I identify myself with the character, so I feel a vibe from her that's very much like myself. I believe such a story would happen to her. Plus she gave the best reading of all of them. Still, it took me two weeks to decide. I still pondered about it for another week or two to make the call."
Back to top

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

PostPosted: Thu Oct 18, 2007 9:28 am    Post subject:

More lust than 'Caution' from Lee
By Bruce Newman

Oscar-winning director depicts passion without restraint in WWII period piece set in Shanghai

Article Launched: 10/05/2007 03:13:40 AM PDT

From its mysteriously inverted title to its twisty spy movie plot, "Lust, Caution'' evokes the tensions that simmered just beneath the surface of Shanghai during the Japanese occupation in World War II.
But for Ang Lee, the Chinese-born director whose adaptation of a story about love between two men brought his first Oscar last year for "Brokeback Mountain,'' this latest attempt to show love as an act of fateful self-deception was, for him, even more daring. Based on Eileen Chang's short story, the film, which opens today, has less to do with the takeover of Shanghai than the forcible occupation of the human heart.

Before he read Chang's story, Lee had never encountered a character like Wong Chia Chi -- the mahjong Mata Hari -- in Chinese literature.

"It has a lot to do with a woman's sexuality, their psychology, what they get from sex,'' Lee says, referring to the story he first read in Chinese. "So it was very shocking. At the same time, she's evoking fearful thoughts and feelings about occupying, and about being occupied. Particularly the latter, about being occupied in the man-woman relationship.''

A member of her university's drama society, Wong is drawn into a plot to assassinate one of the leaders of the collaborationist government working with the Japanese. She is cast by her co-conspirators in the role of Mrs. Mak, who plays mahjong and gossips with the wives of the traitorous regime's leaders.

Wong befriends the leader of this brat pack (Joan Chen) so that she can seduce the woman's husband, the treacherous Mr. Yee (Hong Kong star Tony Leung), director of the government's feared intelligence service.
"She's basically a good girl playing bad girls, and finding her power there,'' Lee says. "And the thing that moved me tremendously is that I totally identified with the girl, who gets to touch her true self by playing a part. Like her, I started on the stage, and it changed my life. It told me that there is real life, and there is the true life, that's somewhere else, in the opposite direction.''

After considering as many as 10,000 applicants for the part, Lee was both excited and terrified when he realized that he had found the perfect actress to play Wong in Tang Wei, who had never been in a feature film before, much less carried one. "I believed in her because, in real life, she seemed like a person from my parents' generation,'' Lee says. "I felt she can be a spokesman for me.''

Tang, then 26 and a recent finalist in Beijing's Miss Universe pageant, auditioned for the role without knowing much about Lee's plan to make the love scenes so intense -- and sexually explicit -- that the movie would eventually be released with an NC-17 rating. In that way, Tang and Ang were entering into a similarly secretive sort of relationship as Wong and Yee.

"That's me,'' he says. "I never tell.''

"At the last audition, Ang told me something about love scenes,'' Tang says, sometimes speaking in English, sometimes through an interpreter. "But he didn't tell me a lot, just that they would be a bit more daring. No details.''

As it became increasingly apparent that she and Leung would be called upon to shed their inhibitions and their clothes for the strenuous lovemaking that dominates the final third of the film, Tang says she simply left her body behind and occupied the character's. "From the very beginning, I removed myself,'' she says. "I just tried to forget Tang Wei. Tried to forget everything and just enter the character.

"Of course, I felt a little nervous at the beginning,'' she adds. "I'm a girl, and I'm not used to this. It was the first time I did a play like this. But when the camera was rolling, I am the girl. I just live the girl's life.''

The connection between the director and the ingenue Tang was portraying was so close that if the actress' concentration wavered for even an instant, he seemed to feel it before she did. "Sometimes when all he could see was my back,'' she recalls, "if I'm not completely in the character, Ang would say, 'You're not in Wong now.' And if I'm in the character, whatever I do, Ang always says it's right.''

Confident that he has made the movie he wanted, Lee was pleased when Focus Features never asked him to trim the film to get a less restrictive rating. Or to satisfy some early critics who have suggested the movie is too long. When Lee accepted the Venice Film Festival's award for best picture, the Golden Lion, he was booed in the press room.

"Believe me, I tried to make it shorter,'' he says. "But it's a Chinese film. I just have to do what feels right. American audiences have been trained by the movies to get restless if something doesn't happen every nine minutes. What's the hurry? It frustrates me a lot.''

With a running time of more than 21/2 hours, subtitles, a period drama and lots of kinky sex, "Lust'' throws caution to the wind. Now Lee is waiting to see if the critics throw him to the wolves.
Back to top

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

PostPosted: Thu Oct 18, 2007 9:40 am    Post subject:

'Lust, Caution' sex scenes challenge conventions
By CHRIS VOGNAR / Movie Critic

06:37 PM CDT on Thursday, October 4, 2007

The MPAA ratings board doesn't judge when sex is crucial to the development of a character or a story, or if it's essential in a way that moves beyond the titillation of pornography. It considers such things as camera angles (the more conventional the better) and categorizes nudity (female: OK; male: only from the rear). Art and narrative are the furthest things from its mind, or its qualifications.

So it's no surprise that the anointed arbiters of decency slapped Ang Lee's Lust, Caution with an NC-17. Or that Mr. Lee, who won Oscars for both Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and Brokeback Mountain, decided to accept the rating rather than make cuts and appeal for an R.

Lust, Caution, based on Eileen Chang's 1983 short story, is the tale of two people who communicate and feel only through sex. Mr. Lee (Tony Leung) is a Chinese officer collaborating with the Japanese government during World War II. Wang Jiazhi (Wei Tang) is a radical drama student assigned to assassinate him. They make the mistake of falling in love, and their finely etched self-loathing manifests itself as rage-fueled lovemaking.

"It's very integral to the movie," said Mr. Lee at last month's Toronto International Film Festival. "But I wouldn't do it if sex was all there was. That would be like soft porn."

For Mr. Lee, who says he was "possessed" by Ms. Chang's story from the moment he read it, the relationship is fraught with meaning. For one, it depicts a Chinese woman reaching the limits of her sexuality against the backdrop of a fervently patriotic struggle. "The man-woman relationship is like occupying and being occupied, prey and predator, under the backdrop of China being occupied by Japan," he says. "The irony is that you don't know who the occupier is, the man or the woman."

It makes perfect sense. And I'd pay good money to hear him try to explain it to the obtuse MPAA. Mr. Lee says he never even considered resubmitting the film for a rating that would allow it to play in more theaters and make more money.

"Once we shot it, I didn't want to take out something so precious," he says. "It would be a shame. Even the actors would blame me. I would rather lose the showings than lose those precious shots."

The sex scenes were shot on a closed set, with a pared-down crew. Mr. Leung admits he was still uncomfortable, but, like his director, he says that without the scenes there would be no film.

Tony Leung and Tang Wei "Without the love scenes my character is incomplete," says Mr. Leung. "He is an animal. He looks very calm, but you can feel that he's very violent, like an animal trapped in its skin. You can feel that violence in the love scenes. They are so important to the characters."

Mr. Lee isn't the only filmmaker who grapples with such issues. Robert Benton's Feast of Love has its share of sex, none of it as explicit or athletic as that in Lust, Caution, but still crucial to the story.

Mr. Benton, who grew up in Oak Cliff and Waxahachie, decided it would be wise to play ball with his distributor, MGM, which wanted an R rating. That means, by definition, no male frontal nudity.

"When you show female nudity, the question you're most often asked is why you didn't show male nudity," Mr. Benton says. "It's the difference between an R and an NC-17. It's one of the big economic factors as far as the distributors are concerned. You can do the picture, but you can't cross that particular line. I think it's a foolish line, but nevertheless it's a line we all agreed to live with."

Of course, Lust, Caution will still show in theaters whose ownership permits NC-17 fare, such as the Angelika theaters in the Dallas area. And Mr. Lee had the option of gutting it to gain a wider audience.

Still, you have to wonder: At what point might the MPAA realize that a movie can have sex without being dirty?
Back to top

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

PostPosted: Thu Oct 18, 2007 2:11 pm    Post subject:

Working from the dark side
Katherine Monk, CanWest News Service

Ang Lee identified with an actress hiding part of her persona

Published: Wednesday, October 03, 2007

TORONTO -- He's easily one of the most approachable, most polite and most articulate directors you could ever hope to interview -- not to mention one of the most talented -- but Ang Lee says there's a darker side to his persona, and he grew intimate with it over the course of making his latest film, Lust, Caution.

"When I realized the character I identified with the most was Chia Chi's [Tang Wei], it was because she's playing a role -- and I know that feeling. I know what it's like to hide yourself, and pretend to be someone you are not," says Lee, the director of the Oscar-nominated Brokeback Mountain and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, during the recent Toronto International Film Festival.

Lee says a lot of people who grew up in the shadow of the Cultural Revolution know what he's talking about as generations of young people were torn from their roots and sent off to re-education camps in order to become equal participants in Chairman Mao's new China.

Taiwan born director Ang Lee attends a book signing event for his new film "Lust, Caution" in Taipei on September 24. The movie is a World War Two espionage thriller set in Shanghai.
Nicky Loh/Reuters

Though Lee managed to make his adult life in the U.S. after moving from Taiwan in 1975, he remembers the fear his parents lived with after his father's family was killed off for having material wealth.

"A lot of the scenes you see in this movie evoke the feelings I had growing up, and what we were all taught to be. And when I see her [Tang Wei] move through this landscape, I can't help but identify with her and her yearning for truth. She wants to touch the truth . . . but in the end, she's an actress."

Set during the Second World War, Lust, Caution (Se Jie) opens in Shanghai as young Chia Chi meets up with an idealistic theatre troupe. When she reduces an entire audience to tears and patriotic chants -- "China Will Never Fall!" -- she becomes involved with the resistance movement once the war starts.

Her assignment is to befriend, and bed, the collaborationist government henchman Mr. Yee (Tony Leung). She succeeds, but not without a great deal of personal risk-taking -- ensuring the film is as rife with suspense as it is sexual tension.

"There are large chapters of Chinese history that we don't learn about . . . and one of those chapters is the collaboration with the Japanese," says Lee.

In order to examine what he calls "the mess" without too much political baggage, Lee stripped the conflict down to its most basic components and ended up with a final tableau dripping in sexual perversion, and a desperate sense of nihilism.

"I think it could easily make some people very uncomfortable, but that's what I wanted. I want you to really see these two people entwined -- physically, but also emotionally -- and to some degree, morally."

Lee is a modern master at capturing larger metaphysical issues on screen without looking too contrived, or without resorting to polysyllabic words and endless analysis.

"I think you look like a fool as a director when you talk too much about what the actors are doing. You want them to listen to you, but personally speaking, I don't want them to just follow everything I say without processing it," he says.

"This is a problem for Asian actors. They are so polite, and they've been trained to smile and nod and agree with everything someone in power tells them. I'm not looking for conflict, but I'm not happy if someone is repressing their feelings either."

Repression is where most of Lee's films find their common denominator. From his early feature The Wedding Banquet, which dealt with a gay man's bid to escape the judgment of his traditional parents, to The Ice Storm and Brokeback Mountain, Lee has crafted a body of work behind the elaborately carved screen of social repression.

"It all comes down to what kind of material excites me, and themes of repression seem to be part of what makes me excited as a director," he says. "You have to remember that I was brought up with an Asian melodrama, which I found unsatisfying. When I moved to the United States, I was liberated by western cinema -- and it was heaven for me," says Lee.

I never found the Asian cinematic tradition had the same power, which is why I make films that exhibit this western style.

"Really, I think the whole art of cinema is a western invention, a western art form, and when you make movies that fit into that tradition, you're in harmony with the form itself."

Lee pauses, smiles, and continues: "Yet, I am still Asian. My personality is Asian. My world view is Asian, and I identify myself as an Asian man -- but not in any modern sense. I feel very much attached to the ancient China -- the ancient traditions, which is where Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon came from."

Lee says he's always made an effort to keep one foot in each world, which is why he generally rotates his projects and goes from Western to Asian material in see-saw fashion.

"I think I find something new in each culture after being away for a bit, and that's creatively important. You can't move forward without changing, and that's why I try to stay open to new perspectives. I want to keep learning. If there's one thing I've learned, it's that you can never learn enough."

- - -

Lust, Caution screens at the Vancouver International Film Festival today, 9:15 p.m. at the Granville 7 and Friday, 3:30 p.m. at the Granville 7. It opens theatrically Oct. 12.
Back to top

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

PostPosted: Thu Oct 18, 2007 2:19 pm    Post subject:

Lust, Caution ladies

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Ang Lee’s Lust, Caution is a brilliant drama that’s equally gorgeous and heartbreaking. The attention to style and detail on the set of ’40s Shanghai is incredible, and a true thing of beauty. On the other side, the depiction of cruelty by humans and fate is as brutal–it not more so. In Japan-occupied China, everything is epic; everything is tragic.

So meeting Tang Wei in a simple knit dress with her hair down is a bit of a shock. She comes off like a regular person, upbeat and unfazed by a long day at a fancy hotel spent facing the press and probably answering the same questions over and over again.

“To me, it is so good. Every reporter asks me questions and makes me think. Even if they’re the same questions, a different emotion or different face will make me think of different things,” Tang says.

In case you don’t know, she plays a student who is first recruited to be a stage actress and then recruited to help assassinate a Chinese agent who works for the Japanese, played by Tony Leung. The job entails seducing him, and their relationship proves to be intense and tricky on psychological, emotional, and physical levels. Their relationship manifests in very graphic Kama Sutra-inspired positions, which are already gaining infamy among less-than-liberated audience members.

“Even though I’m part of the movie, I can’t understand a lot of things,” the actress admits in textbook English. “Questions can help me to slowly get out of the character.”

Tang sums up her character as brave. Forced into uncomfortable situations, she discovers her strengths and limits. But in her estimation, to play such a role doesn’t require a brave actress.

“She never thinks of herself as a brave woman. She does what she wants to do. And I am just like a normal person in the audience.”

The first-time film actress is guilty of ridiculously high standards or incredible humility—perhaps both, as a result of finding her role at 27. She is no young thing plucked into stardom by Lee, but a seasoned theatre actress trying something new and succeeding wildly. Like her character, she discovers that was indeed born to play roles.

And then there’s Joan Chen, the next person whom I’m scheduled to meet. She’s dressed for photos and has a totally different demeanor. “Finding herself” is not on her to-do list on press day because she’s already been located and centered. Our time flows more like a conversation than an interview.

Chen was picked out of high school at 14 to attend a training program for Shanghai Film Studios and gone on to act in films of all budgets and genres on either side of the camera. She tells me that she is proud of some of her movies and not proud of others. Lust, Caution belongs to the former category.

“It forces the mainstream Western culture to accept a different version of Chinese-ness,” she says. “It’s not like flying amongst bamboo, punches, and kicks. It has such depth and such complexity. They didn’t usually embrace that part of Chinese-ness.”

Chen and the director have known each other for a while, and signed on to the project before even knowing what it entailed.

“We used to know each other a little better in our younger days,” she recalls. “After he left NYU and before he did Pushing Hands, he was writing the script for The Wedding Banquet and was tailoring it for me. I missed that one, and when we saw each other in Shanghai, I was like, ‘Great! If you think I’m right for it, I’ll do it.’ Then I read the novella and thought, ‘Hm. How do I do this?’”

Playing Tony Leung’s husband was not a big role but it was complex, requiring extraordinary amounts of class and subtlety. Her extraordinarily nuanced performance is both daunting and mysterious, and it actually paid dividends in two concrete ways: (1) She became quite good at mahjong, and (2) it is a movie that she enjoys watching.

“Usually, I cannot enjoy watching a movie I’m in. This time is different because I’m in a very small role,” she says. “When I first saw it in San Francisco, I didn’t know if the sex scenes were going to be in it. I thought, Whoa!”

Would she have been interested in some scenes like that? “Of course. I could pull them off, but it would be a different film. Ang kept looking at me and said, ‘You know, I should have Leehong’s character seduce Mrs. Yee!’”

Perhaps that will be a sequel. Until then, there’s Lust, Caution, putting the spotlight on Tang Wei and Joan Chen--two actresses in different stages of their careers playing two characters with different relationship to Tony Leung--perfectly cast and perfectly executing a compelling study of acting, reality, and identity.

Last edited by Info on Thu Oct 18, 2007 2:29 pm; edited 1 time in total
Back to top

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

PostPosted: Thu Oct 18, 2007 2:26 pm    Post subject:

Ang Lee's Latest
By Wu Yiqing

Ang Lee’s kung fu epic Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and his cowboy flick Brokeback Mountain may have crowned him with Oscar halos, but the consecutive hits were soon followed by a low tide in creativity for the director. “Maybe it was my mid-life crisis,” he recalls. The fear propelled him to revisit famed Chinese author Eileen Chang’s tenacious, but illusive novella “Se, Jei,” which has haunted him for decades. “I realize that I should use the power and resources I have now to do something I have never done before.”

The result is Lee’s latest, Lust, Caution.

The director’s take on the story of failed espionage is a breathtaking battle of the sexes that fuels the sheets. Lust, Caution is a period drama set in the frays of fallen Shanghai between 1938 and 1942. Centering on hot-headed student Wong Chia Chi’s (Tang Wei’s feature film debut) spiraling downfall as an actress-turned-(KMT) spy, the film probes into the sense and sensibilities of men and women. Wong gives in to bodily pleasures in her mission to seduce and kill Mr. Yee (Tony Leung), then the most wanted spy of the Japanese regime in Shanghai.

Known in the West as China’s Greta Garbo, Chang was a celebrated woman of letters who spent more than 30 years revising the novella. Or rather, eliminating traces of herself in the suspicious, almost autobiographical, story. The tragic romance mirrors her short-lived marriage to Hu Lanching, a Renaissance man who was a Chinese spy for the Japanese regime in Shanghai.

Like generations of Chinese readers, Lee was bewitched by Chang’s lyrical prose and microscopic probe into human nature. Rejecting the notion that he “adapted” from the short story, Lee says he was just playing detective. The quest to unravel Chang’s true intentions became his driving creative force. “It was like peeling onions, layers after layers,” he says. Although the sexual escapades were not mentioned, many clues were littered in the text suggesting the pair were dancing a dangerous tango. “I just take the hint and read between the lines,” Lee says. “I didn’t make up the sex scenes: they were there.”

The film version of “Se, Jei” manifests itself in intriguing, deceptive role plays. Se means color or anything that could stir the senses. Jei can mean restraints or a ring. A believer of Buddhism teachings, Lee says the scanty sex has its shock value and the interplay of the different meanings of the title generates endless dramatic tension. “In a way, acting and directing are all se,” he says. “After all, life is filled with illusions.” For the film’s protagonist Wong, her fatal shortcoming lies in her failure to decipher the illusive truths and in her obsession in acting out her femme fatale role.

Embattled by Chinese critics and press when the novella was published in the 1950s, Lee thinks an ovation is overdue for Chang’s daring literary approach. “Eileen was probably the first contemporary author who wrote about Chinese women’s sexual consciousness,” Lee reckons. “Were there anything good Chinese women could get out of sex? I haven’t seen any until now.” Via the act, Lee says, Wong shreds her girlish innocence and finds her sense of purpose.

Set in a totally different time and place, Lee compares Lust, Caution to Brokeback Mountain. “They are both love stories, dealing with the same human emotions.” The forbidden gay cowboys roam in a lost Eden in the Wyoming greens; whereas the spy and her prey journey through hell. Shooting outdoors for Brokeback was a bliss that nurtured the director’s body and mind. But filming Lust, Lee says, was a purgatory. The intensity and cruelty of the tryst was contrary to his temperament. The ordeal whitened the artist’s hair and almost pushed him to the verge of a mental breakdown.

Unlike the slow-brew response in the United States, Lust, Caution is a smash hit in Taiwan and Hong Kong, with its box office gross there surpassing Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. But still, he has low expectations for the film in the U.S. due to Lust’s rich Chinese cultural contexts – clacking mahjong games and the history of the Sino-Japanese war, Lee says, are not easy for Westerners to understand.

“If possible, American audiences should watch the film twice,” he says. “They are probably too busy reading the subtitles and are likely to miss the subtle visual cues and very fine acting,” Lee says, referring to the domestic, feminine war waging at the mahjong table—where the Chinese tai tais twitch their eyebrows and powdered faces to convey secrets and show off their diamonds: glittering symbols of their husbands’ rising statuses in the Japanese puppet government.

For those ears unfamiliar with Chinese dialects, they are also likely to miss the actresses’ satirical remarks flowing freely in Cantonese, Mandarin and Shanghainese—which give hints to the diasporic tension of the Chinese profiteers during the war.

The film is slapped with a harsh NG-17 rating in the U.S., but having no rating in mainland China has also posed a problem. All films screened in mainland Chinese cinemas must be suitable for both young and old, and because of this lack of film classifications, Lee was forced to create a director’s cut, removing the film’s explicit sex scenes and the students’ clumsy murder of a spy in Hong Kong. The director laments that the new version will “miss the essence of the work” and calls for China to establish a film rating system. “Many mainland Chinese reporters and film industry representatives saw the full version at Venice. They were really moved by it. I am sure this incident will prompt them to rethink the current state of censorship in China.”

Lust, Caution is now playing in select cities.
Back to top

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

PostPosted: Thu Oct 18, 2007 2:33 pm    Post subject:

Ang Lee says obsession with love is part of his art

San Francisco - Two years after directing Brokeback Mountain, the Oscar-winning drama about two gay cowboys, Ang Lee is back with a spy thriller set in occupied China during World War Two.

In Lust, Caution, which opened in late September, Lee exacts much from the movie's two leading actors, particularly in the explicit sex scenes. Lee, who was an actor before becoming a director, considers filming an agonizing experience.

"Sometimes I feel I am tearing the actors apart to see myself and to expose myself to the audience," said Lee in an interview with Deutsche Presse-Agentur dpa.

DPA: Like Brokeback Mountain, your new film, Lust, Caution, revolves around unfulfilled love. Are you drawn to stories like that?

LEE: "I'm not only attracted to that, I'm obsessed with that. I don't really know what love is. I think when it is definable, then it's too small for me. When I think of love, particularly romantic love, it's so grand and so mysterious that if we knew about it, we would have stopped writing love stories 3,000 years ago. I guess as a director I can make it (love) grander, make it impossible, even doomed. It makes you humbled. Lust, Caution is at its heart a weird love story. Really, really weird and it's grand to me."

DPA: You filmed very sexually explicit love scenes. Are you happy with the result?

LEE: "I think I have never seen anything like that myself. You have hot steamy scenes and good performances. But not in such an intensity. Or you see real sex in a porno film but you don't have the dramatic motivation or the exquisite performance. I don't think sex is something just for the sake of sex. It generates chemistry that triggers love, feelings of intimacy, and that is pretty profound material. My main characters are both in denial of true love and they need each other desperately. So when I have two great actors who get in bed under ideal shooting circumstances, very private, would I loose sleep over it and regret it for the rest of my life? No, we just decided to jump in on it. I think these love scenes are extremely intense for me.

DPA: This is your first film in Chinese since Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon that has only Chinese actors.

LEE: "And with Chinese tempo and vibe. I believe the emotions that it deals with are universal. Going back to my culture is more demanding. It's more missionary. I want to go there and leave a trace, a mark. It's also a mission to introduce the Chinese drama, let it be part of a cultural exchange. It used to be a one way street. Now is the time to change that."
Back to top

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

PostPosted: Thu Oct 18, 2007 2:40 pm    Post subject:

Ang Lee Brings 'Lust, Caution' to America
Emily Christianson Staff

In Lust, Caution, Wong Chia Chi [Tang Wei] lives a modest life as a young girl attending a Chinese university--while World War II rages around her. With the Japanese occupation in full force, Wong and her theater friends mastermind a plot to help their country by assassinating a top Japanese collaborator named Mr. Yee (Tony Leung). Out of their league, the group takes on fake identities, sending their leading lady Wong to seduce the traitor.

Ang Lee, Lust, Caution's director, said he was drawn to Chinese author Eileen Chang's story because of its ""female psychology and patriotism."" None of her stories, Lee notes, are as ""beautiful or cruel"" as this one.

The Oscar-winning director sat down with to discuss his new erotic thriller. What was it about this story that made you choose it as your next film?

Ang Lee: The way I was brought up, you never questioned something glorious. Then the journey that actress goes through, I very much identified with. Only by playing [the seductress] did she touch the true self and find her strength. She really got to exercise her female power, talent--and everything. She stayed more away from reality and less thinking about consequences. What she embodies is someone else. It's a strange thing as a filmmaker. When I was young I had the same experience.

HW: Will the sexuality and graphic love-making scenes be controversial to the Chinese?

AL: Yes--if they get to see it. I think that's the controversy aspect there. Why don't we have a rating system? Why do we have to watch like a kid? That's going on right now. I think the subject matter is very attractive to them. It's a big country of patriotism. What about that little tingle or feeling of human nature? I think it would be quite welcome there.

HW: Could moviegoers take this film the wrong way? I say that because of the sex, violence and graphic nature fo the film...

AL: I don't know. Who is to say what is the right or wrong way? I don't expect the movie to be appreciated by everyone. It did concern me that, when you have to do subtitles, you miss a lot of the little nuances when you are not familiar with the experience they experience. I hear people say that the movie is long, whether they like it or not. For the Chinese viewer, it's too fast. They know that I'm stuffing a lot into the screen to try and catch everyone. It's just too busy for them to follow. Different cultural backgrounds make for a different way of viewing. There is no unifying test here either. Some people say it's just fine.

HW: Is it true the sex scenes were edited out in the Chinese version? As a filmmaker, how do you react to that?

AL: It's the same story. You get the same meaning, but it feels different. To me, it's the best part that they cut out. It weighs differently. I think you get a flow, the nuances of the time and of the story.

HW: You chose an inexperienced actress, Tang Wei, to play the lead role...

AL: It takes a very short time to figure out the known actresses. Nobody came close to the character. Then we screened over 10,000 actresses to get to her. She was the second one who came in, second or third, so quite early in my game. When she walked in, I had a feeling it was her... hold on, I'm not sure, and it was weeks into shooting I'm still not sure [laughs].

HW: Is that uncertainty common?

AL: It's quite common. When you have someone new playing a big part, let alone carry the movie, it's very scary. Even though everything looks right to you, you don't know the fate of the movie when you face the audience and whether they agree or not. You can check everyone else around you and say, ""What do you think?"" But there is no telling the end result. What is the outcome going to be?

HW: Were you concerned about showing Japan in a bad light or going too far with it?

AL: No, I think what I portrayed is what we need for the movie. Actually, it's just a wide shot of the Japanese ... that is the time period. I think that my description is not propaganda and it's not political--it's just the life that they lived back then. I didn't show any atrocity ... It's to know why she wants to kill this guy.

HW: You seem to lean toward adaptations from short stories. Why do you think you connect with those?

AL: I wrote my first three movies because, back then, nobody gave me scripts. I don't enjoy writing. I'm a filmmaker and I'm running out of things to write very quickly. I like to be stimulated. I like to react to the material. Literally, it's the elements. It's not the story, it's not the character, and it's not even the texture or period. They tag along with my interest of the elements of the material. But like I said, debating which one is real, lust against patriotism, then I got into it. After I was done with the movie, I forgot most of it.

HW: You have tackled so many different genres. Is there one you are very excited to work with in the future?

AL: When I get done with something, then I get tired of it and it's not fresh or scary enough for me. I move on to the next one. No, there is not a specific genre. Sometimes I mix them a lot. To me, Hulk is really a horror film, and it's a psychodrama to me. But unfortunately, it has to be sold as a comic book movie like Spiderman. Although it is comic book related, in my mind, it's a film drama, it's a psychodrama and it's a horror film. Horror film is like Hong Kong Martial Art. That was something I had in mind. Other than that, I just do what comes naturally. I had never done a pornographic kind [laughs], and what is that like, but I think I'm done with that before I do it again.

HW: You haven't decided on your next project yet. Are you leaning towards a Hollywood studio film or another film from Asia?

AL: Film in Asia is passé for me. I can write a Chinese film like this and it is like making three American movies. I don't know if I can do it back to back. If I do, I need to take a very long break. No, I don't have a checklist that shows what I have not done.

HW: Why is it so much more difficult to make films in China?

AL: Working in production in China. That's half of what I said, and the other is mentality. I think I feel responsible. Each one of them is like making history or something, some missionary, and I'm very demanding. Also, American texture is something I adapt. It's easier for me to see through it and make art out of it. See through it and figure out the subtext. I can do that very quickly. I'm more like an artist and I get a lot of the support. Whether it's information or technical, in China it seems I have to do everything. From top down, I push everyone. It is very demanding, the texture I used is from my personal experience. It's just a lot more personal. The social responsibility is much larger. Here, I am just one of hundreds of directors. There I get all the attention so I can't really get a breather.

HW: Do you get a lot of Chinese media or paparazzi following you around?

AL: Yeah, you have to deal with them. Imagine how we do those sex scenes in a period of two weeks. [Laughs] protection.
Back to top

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

PostPosted: Thu Oct 18, 2007 2:43 pm    Post subject:

Ang Lee expresses 'Caution'
Tang Wei gets method for 'Lust'


Posted: Thurs., Oct. 11, 2007, 11:56am PT

Ang Lee and thesp Tang Wei received a warm welcome at Variety's Screening Series of "Lust, Caution" on Tuesday at the Arclight, when they got a standing ovation from the aud following a showing of the film.

Although this was Tang's first major role, Lee explained that he didn't necessarily seek out an unknown actress for the part. After examining approximately 10,000 hopefuls, he chose Tang because she demonstrated a sensitivity to the role's historical importance.

Tang's newness was compounded by a grueling five month sked in which cast and crew worked six days a week, often for 14 hours each day.

"It was hell," Lee said of the process. But he also joked about the advantages of having an inexperienced actress on the set. "Maybe she thinks, 'Oh, films are like this,'" he said.

When asked how she managed the emotionally wrought and sexually explicit material so masterfully, Tang described a process similar to method acting.

"I follow what the character wants to do," she explained. Tang also spoke about the emotional difficulty of watching the now finished project. "I can't watch it or I will start to cry," she said.

Lee felt that "Caution" is important primarily because no other such film exists, especially in Asia and said he didn't necessarily take the NC-17 rating into account when filming.

"I shot until I felt right," he said.

When asked how he conceives of such complex visual concepts, Lee, once an actor himself, said "I act with the lenses...It was the ultimate performance for me."
Back to top

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

PostPosted: Fri Oct 19, 2007 12:26 am    Post subject:

Ang Lee Explains Relationship Between Lust and Caution
Nichi Bei Times

From the Nichi Bei Times Weekly October 11, 2007

"Lust, Caution," the new film from Academy Award-winning director Ang Lee, has become famous for its NC-17 rating and for rumors that the sex that earned the rating is not simulated. While this aspect of the production has been discussed endlessly, there is much more to "Lust, Caution" than just sex.

The film follows a young actress who falls in with a group of students involved in the 1940s nationalist resistance in Hong Kong and occupied Shanghai. Together, they plot to kill a member of the Japanese collaborationist government of Wang Jing-wei. Their plan is to use Chia-chi Wong, the young actress, as bait; they have her pose as a member of high society in order to seduce Yee, the high-ranking collaborator.

"My mother lived in Beijing and they were collaborators," Lee explained in a roundtable interview the Nichi Bei Times participated in. "My father went with Chiang Kai-shek to the west [Taiwan] to the resistance, so I heard the story of both sides.

"I don't see myself making political films," he continued, "but it's such an important part of our lives. We can"t get away from it. Just like sex."

The intersection of sex and politics is certainly a large part of the film.

"The occupied and the occupier is the shortest way to put it," Lee stated. "I had never read from Chinese literature what women get from sex. [In the story the film is based on, author Eileen Chang] even suggests… the way to a woman"s heart is through her vagina. How could I miss that?

"To put female sexuality in the backdrop of the whole patriotic war against the Japanese, it's never been done before," Lee added in a Hollywood Newswire interview with Izumi Hasegawa.

Another aspect of the film that attracted Lee was that acting enables both the main characters to feel things they wouldn"t otherwise.

"It's very much like me. By making movies, by pretending, by embodying a character [one can find their] true self," he said. "Even stripped naked [and having sex] they are still performing. As long as there is a relationship you are performing for someone, even one"s relationship to their self. It"s very hard to define which part is your true self and which is a performance.

"Lust, in Chinese, also means color, everything you see," he adds. "It's the texture of life. It's nothing but the reflection or a projection of your own self. And you should be cautious not to be fooled."

Politics, in the film, is also a performance, often used to justify or glorify violence.

"We are all told about how war is glorious and they don"t look at killing [in that context] as a crime. In reality, it's something that"s very hard to do and something that is gruesome. They glorify the stories such as [Wong"s, in which] a woman sacrifices her body for the country. They don"t tell you [what sex can mean to a woman]. I think it"s a very similar thing. "

Wong's actions at the end of the movie have shocked and confused many, prompting the question, "Why did she do it?"

"I don't think there is an answer" is Lee"s response. "I think it came from a very dark and murky place inside her. Personally, I think she did the wrong thing. She made a horrible mistake, but also, an understandable mistake."

Tang Wei, the actress who played Wong and who was also on hand for the interview, disagreed.

"I think she knew everything. I think she knew exactly what she was doing," Wei said.

The book seems to agree with Lee, clearly indicating her choice the product of a terrible miscalculation. The film, on the other hand, seems much more consistent with Wei's interpretation. In the film, Wong"s choice seems to be an ultimate act of passive aggression, retaliation against those who have used and manipulated her.

Despite his insistence that Wong made a mistake, Lee, perhaps subtly indicating agreement with Wei, asked, "Who truly occupies who?"

The diverging opinions of the director and his leading lady create an eerie parallel to the book and film. Though Lee is the ringleader of the picture — somehow Wei"s idea is the one that comes across on the screen.
Back to top
Display posts from previous: Forum Index -> Tony Leung Movies All times are GMT - 8 Hours
Goto page 1, 2, 3, 4  Next
Page 1 of 4

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