Writers: Eileen Chang, James Shamus, Hui-Ling Wang
Stars: Wei Tang, Tony Leung Chiu Wai, Joan Chen, Leehom Wang
Lust, Caution is as close to a masterpiece as you could possibly get. I'm a big fan of Ang Lee, whose daring subject choices make him one of the most interesting directors today. There's a lot of unfounded and hateful reactions to Lust, Caution. What's worse is that some people call it 'Porn', which just goes to show how closed-minded and prudish some of these critics truly are. I found this film to be captivating, with its mixture of Eastern and Western styles that represent China in the 1940s. The performances were stunning, the cinematography breathtaking, the music haunting, and the story riveting. I'd go as far as to say that this is one of Ang Lee's finest films.
Set in WWII during the Japanese occupation, Wong Chia Chi (Wei Tang) is a beautiful and talented young woman who joins an college acting company to raise funds for the war. She soon makes friends with her fellow actors, all of which are lead by the handsome and patriotic Kuang Yu Min (Leehom Wang). He concocts a plan to assassinate the 'traitor' and powerful political figure, Mr. Yee (Tony Leung Chiu Wai). The group of young actors all join in to kill Mr. Yee, which leads Wong into a world of espionage, deceit, and powerful emotional mind games.
|Wei Tang is a legend.|
The lead actress, Wei Tang, is such a stunning beauty, and my God can she act! Her subtle expressions evoked such a strong emotion out of me. She gets my Best Actress Award for 2007, even over Marion Cotillard for La vie En Rose. Cotillard had the more difficult role, but there's something about Wei Tang's performance that had me mesmerised.
Her father leaves her to go to England and refuses to send her money to come with him. There's a scene where she's watching Intermezzo (1939), a film about a married man with kids, who leaves his family for a whirlwind romance overseas. It starred Leslie Howard and Ingrid Bergman. I wonder whether Wong was crying because of her father leaving her like that (he remarried in England), or because she found the doomed affair between Howard and Bergman sad. It's an interesting part of the film, I'm just glad I got the subtle reference.
|A taste of Ang Lee's 1940s China, with Wei Tang scoping the premises.|
If I've learnt anything from this movie, it's that murdering someone with a knife is a lot more complicated and messy than one would think. The young group of actors/assassinators thought that killing a person would be quick and easy, but their rude awakening was a prolonged and excruciating death by stabbing.
One thing I did not expect to see was full frontal sex scenes. Woah. Wow. Holy Cow! I think the whole question of "Is it porn or is it art?" Does apply here. I call this art, because the story is overwhelmingly the main component that gets the screen-time, and the sex is just an additional component that adds to the story.
The movie is called 'Lust, Caution,' for a reason. The vivid and passionate sex scenes really show us how powerful Mr. Yee's attraction is to Wong. I would usually say that the scenes are way too full-on, but I found them to be appropriate for this film. In movies such as "In the Realm of the Senses (1976)," most of it was sex scenes with the occasional period of dialogue and drama. Whereas in Lust, Caution, it's pretty much all dialogue and drama with a couple of sex scenes. Therein lies the difference between an artsy film (Lust, Caution), and a trashy film (Realm of the Senses).
In my opinion, this is one of the most beautiful movies ever made. The score by Alexandre Desplat is so haunting, and the stunning visuals took my breath away. The chemistry between the actors was perfection, and the story was always beautiful and intriguing in one way or another. The more I look back on Lust, Caution, the more I fall in love with the movie. Ang Lee has sealed himself as one of my favorite directors of all time.