Review: 'Lust, Caution'
I am sorry I haven't put up more reviews on here. I've been busy with work (at the moment, I work everyday but Sunday) but from the small free time I've had, I have tried to watch as many movies as I can (and watch the second season of The Shield on DVD!)
Today, I will review a film called Lust, Caution, A Taiwanese film directed by Academy Award winner Ang Lee (Brokeback Mountain)
Now first off, let me just get this out of the way, THE FILM IS RATED NC-17. For some of you, that is an automatic NOT WATCHING THIS vote for you. To the rest of you, it just heightens your curiosity even more (if you were even remotely curious about the film) Now there is an R rated version, but I think you should watch the original version.
It stars Tony Leung Chiu Wai, who is most known here in the US from the movies Hero starring Jet Li and Hard Boiled starring Chow Yun Fat, and introduces us to a brave actress by the name of Tang Wei. Why brave you ask? Well, she had a media ban put on her by the Chinese State Administration of Radio Film and Television (SAFRT) because of this film due to all the explicit sexual acts she did in the film.
The acting is brilliant for all 157 minutes of screen time. You really feel the pain the two main characters go through, Tony Leung's character, Mr. Yee, who is a Chinese working for the Japanese government during the Second Sino-Japanese War and Tang Wei's character, Chia Chi, who is disguising herself as Mrs. Mak, to lure Mr. Yee into the brink of assassination. The two characters fall in love (who doesn't these days) and it sets up a difficult love story. Chia Chi knows what she is doing is wrong but she continues to seduce Mr. Yee because she believes in her heart she is doing the right thing. She and a group of drama students form an alliance to kill Mr. Yee, with Chia Chi being in the heart of the action, playing with Mr. Yee's wife and a few friends in friendly games of Mahjong. The Mahjong games can be seen as metaphors for the movie with each move being a precise game of cat and mouse, in this case, heart and soul.
When Mr. Yee and Chia Chi aka Mrs. Mak have sex (3 scenes in all) director Ang Lee goes all out to the point of the film being borderline pornography. These scenes could've been easily omitted (as they were in a lot of Asian countries) but at the same time can be seen as beautiful art and knowing that Chia Chi is only setting Mr. Yee up for assassination builds up the suspense as the love scenes go on. You wonder if she REALLY loves this man or is only doing this for the love of China.
It's a shame most people won't see this film because of the NC-17 rating but get this; in Hong Kong, the film was the highest grossing Chinese film and the 3rd highest grossing film overall only behind Spider-Man 3 and Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. In the United States, it is currently the 5th highest grossing NC-17 production and worldwide box office is just over $67 million.
On DVD, it does have both the uncensored NC-17 version and an R rated version and DVD sales were really good despite the mere $4 million dollar gross in America.
It's not a perfect film by any stretch of the means (at 157 minutes, it did seem to drag on a bit) but for the most part, it's a film that showcases not only Tony Leung's and Tang Wei's bravery and magnificent acting but Ang Lee's master directing.
It's not my favorite Ang Lee film but it's definitely one of his best.