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Lust, Caution [DVD]
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Award-winning erotic thriller from renowned director Ang Lee. The film is set during the Japanese occupation of Shanghai during World War II. Wong Chia Chi (Wei Tang) is a student involved in a radical and ambitious plan to assassinate a top Japanese collaborator, Mr Yee (Tony Leung Chiu Wai). Wong has transformed herself inside and out to become the sophisticated Mrs Mak, who will attempt to gain Yee's trust by befriending his wife (Joan Chen) and then draw the man into an affair. As she is drawn ever closer to her dangerous prey, she finds her very identity being pushed to the limit.
Lust, Caution, Ang Lee's follow up to Brokeback Mountain, for which he won the Academy Award® for Best Director, continues his exploration of people with a passion for each other trapped in a world where their passion could be life-threatening, but in a very different context this time. Set in China during the Japanese occupation of early World War II, the underlying plot concerns the story of young Wong Chia Chi (Tang Wei), an actress and member of a small group of student resistors planning to infiltrate the home of Mr. Yee (Tony Leung), a high-ranking collaborationist government official, in order to kill him for his role in the torture and executions of Chinese resistance fighters. Chi ingratiates herself with Yee's wife, the sophisticated and cultured Mrs. Yee (Joan Chen) under the guise of being the wife of a wealthy but unseen tycoon. Flashbacks tell the tale of how Chi came to be involved with the resistors: her acting ability is her most valuable asset, and her assignment is to act the role of Mr. Yee's lover, right down to the sex. The story of their love and the painful intimacy it involves for both of them is told through their sexual relationship, which starts out violently, drifts into S&M, and shifts with their feelings, moving from pain and fear to some sort of desperate connection.
This is lust with a capital L; the film's sex scenes have become famous for their frankness and acrobatic portrayals (they took 12 days to film), but amazingly enough, it's never prurient. The nature of their sexual relationship, and not the sex itself, is the point. Chi falls in love with the man she's supposed to kill, but there is no stopping the mission and she knows it. The danger of it all collapsing for them both is ever present, and that's the Caution. The cinematography and direction in Lust, Caution is masterful, and every scene is beautiful. The film does drift into a languid pace, and at times one wonders why Lee would feel the need to draw it out at the expense of delaying the crucial climactic scenes. Still, it's a wonderful piece of storytelling that should only help solidify Ang Lee's place in cinematic history as a master of films that express the difficulty of being essentially human in an inhumane world. --Daniel VanciniSee all Product description
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I won`t go over too much of the plot of this opened-out adaptation of Eileen Chang`s elliptic short story (written in the early 1950s) as you can read Amazon`s outline or indeed the reviews here - one of which contains so many spoilers that the person responsible should be ashamed of themselves. It is set in `40s occupied China and, at the start, revolves around a group of young Resistance activists, one of whom, Jiazhi, shows such a talent for acting in their agit-prop plays that she is deputed to seduce a nasty piece of work who is not only collaborating with the Japanese forces but rounding up and executing any resistance members.
The drama is played out against this backdrop, with a `Greek chorus` of mah jong playing wives, who appear regularly during proceedings, fiddling, as it were, while Rome burns.
Tony Leung and newcomer Tang Wei play the ill-matched leads, lovers of a sort, playing out an emotionally and politically dangerous game. Leung, as famous as it`s possible to get in Asia, is restrained, neat as a pin, and deadly. A great performance.
Tang Wei (supposedly chosen from 10,000 auditionees) is a revelation. If Juliette Binoche and Marion Cotillard can win Oscars, then surely she should at least have been nominated. The film attracted not a single nomination, one more reason, were reasons needed any more, to ignore that annual farrago. Her acting, in a difficult role, is consistently compelling, indicating worlds with a glance or a half-smile. The way she both ages and assumes the alter ego of the woman of the world who must lead Mr Lee to his nemesis is not only down to detailed direction; you can act for the camera or you can`t. Tang Wei not only can, but is incandescent, riveting.
So is US-born Asian pop star Wang Leehom, whose soulful leader of the young Resistance group is a model of repressed desire and misplaced loyalties. The late scene in which the heroine says to him "You should have done that three years ago" is heartbreaking and epitomises a central theme of the film. Another wonderful performance. Mention also for the famed Joan Chen`s graceful acting in the part of long-suffering Mrs Lee.
The film looks incredible, the script`s intelligent, the story a tragic, uneasy blend of love, sex, idealism, dogma, complacency and much else besides.
The scenes where the central couple play out their Lust (it needs capital letters) are startling in their credibility, intimacy, and mix of a kind of desperate tenderness and time-stopping breathlessness. Harvey Keitel, when asked about his `nude scenes` in The Piano said that he didn`t think of them in those terms, they were simply what was needed at that moment in the story. The same might be said for the `sex scenes` here: they are only sex scenes if you pluck them out of their context and fixate on them. They are certainly arresting and, in their way - at least at first - shocking, but they are meant to be.
I recommend this great film to anyone who appreciates intelligent, stimulating, cinematically exuberant film-making.
The film is a intelligent and clear-eyed exploration of ayoung woman's sexual development and search for identity in the unfortunate, brutal circumstances of hostile occupation by a foreign power (metaphor in itself but I'll leave that bone for some enterprising film student to pick).
In this film a emotionally isolated young woman has her need to belong and be noticed exploited - first unwittingly by her mates, then, it is implied, more knowingly, by the underground movement - as she is drawn into games of pretend and make-believe that go all the way to the sexual arena.
In her lack of experience (both life&sexual) she is first no match for the target chosen for her: a paranoid, damaged man who's sexuality is heavily marked by his (justified) fear of death. It would be a miracle if his particular needs would not have a potent impact on her fledgeling sexuality in their complex sexual encounters.
And as if physical intimacy was not enough, a certain intimacy is also created by the fact that her comrades are so uneasy around sex and sexuality that her experiences with him have made her an alien to them.
It is her victory that in this environment she finally starts to carve an identity for herself and make her own choices, how ever misjudged in terms of consequence. I found it fully understandable that she would find it thouching when he, in the end, attempts to give her what he thinks she wants, and how perversely sorry she must have felt for him when he finally forgets to fear her. It goes to show the difficulty of sustaining detachment in sexual relations - where there is lust, caution: your heart is not far away, and it may trample your logic.
A truly adult film - forget the puns.
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good reasonable price.