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More incredible film-making from Ang Lee
the_Poppuns6 October 2007
What a movie. I saw this movie yesterday and I'm still thinking about it. Tony Leung is just awesome. I had seen him in a few movies, I'd already determined that he's a great actor. I have no problem understanding what's going on with him without reading the subtitles because he communicates so much with his eyes. So watching him in this I was curious to see that something else was coming across than you'd normally expect. Here he's playing against type and I thought he did a wonderful job. Definitely Oscar worthy. As is his costar, who I kept trying to rack my brain for a film I'd seen her in but apparently she's a newbie. You'd never know it from her performance. It's a true leading performance since she carries most of the film being in just about every minute of it. She's great. And how great was it to see Josie Packard (Joan Chen) again. :)

Ang Lee is a genius. He's so good at capturing the emotions of his characters and actors. It's like he unfolds them so that everything on the inside is laid bare. From The Ice Storm to Brokeback Mountain to Lust, Caution he shows you real people and how they love and damage and betray each other, and more specifically how it feels. That's true talent. Anyone can point a camera. This is something else entirely.

The film itself is the best espionage film I've ever seen, but that's not all it is. It's very much like a noir and a war film and romance is probably the genre that is represented least. I've read a few reviews mentioning love and falling in it. There is some of that but I think maybe those people might want to give this one another go. They might have missed the point.

Who should see this? Adults. But I'm not saying that because of the sex scenes. I'm 33. I don't know if I would have completely grasped the emotional complexity of this film 10 years ago. I think you need to have been kicked around a bit by life to fully appreciate what's happening here. Anyone who likes old movies, sad movies, good movies. Bogart fans, noir fans, costume design fans should all enjoy it. I sincerely hope it gets some recognition around Oscar time. It's my favorite this year so far.
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Drawn out, borderline pornographic, but...
DrSatisfaction8 September 2007
Warning: Spoilers
...well worth seeing. I had the pleasure of seeing this film tonight at the Toronto International Film Festival and it was a delightful experience (not to mention I was about a foot away from Tony Leung and Ang Lee).

So as I have written in the title, the film itself may appear to be a bit flawed to most viewers. One of the consensus main complaints was that it was too long and drawn out (157 minutes is no joke, especially with a few ice teas in you from dinner). However, I believe the story was well paced and needed the full length of the movie to fully develop. There were not many scenes that could have been easily cut out. It was also not nearly as slow as some other films (i.e. In the Mood for Love) or as long as other films (i.e. Once Upon a Time in America). Overall, I felt the movie flowed quite naturally and was focused on the storyline, although I went into the movie expecting a loose meandering plot line (as some other reviews have suggested).

Another complaint was that the sex scenes were unnecessarily long, prolific, graphic, and even violent (there was a rape scene). Again, I disagree with these complaints because I felt like these were the scenes that really brought out the lust in the characters. This was especially true for Tony Leung's character, whom many viewers seemed to feel was underdeveloped and one dimensional. As my friend said, "Tony could have done this role in his sleep." True, but that was the whole point of his character. Ang Lee purposely left his character undeveloped for most parts of the movie except those few sex scenes, a particular scene in a Japanese whore house, and the closing scene. Those were the few scenes that made Leung's character vulnerable and human. Because there were so few windows that allowed the audience to glimpse into his character, that made the emotions all the more realistic and powerful. The violence in the rape scene should also be addressed. Again, this was one of those rare scenes that shows Leung's character as human (although it was a very brutal, violent side of him). Here, he appeared angry and frustrated, and not at Tang Wei's character but really more at himself and what he has turned into. He was portrayed as a traitor in the movie, and he never spoke about how he viewed himself except for the scene in the Japanese brothel, when Tang's character asked him if he took her there so she could be his whore. He responded that he took her there because he knew much more about whoring oneself than she did, obviously referring to his political role as a traitor. Thus, through minimal dialogue and character development, Ang Lee was able to depict Leung's character with great insight and accuracy, all the while reminding us that he was still human on some level.

Now although Leung's character development was sacrificed for the benefit of the film, Tang's character development was actually enhanced. Make no mistake, she was the central character of the movie, and it was very interesting to follow her metamorphosis from a young, naive university student to a spy for the resistance force in bed with the enemy. Once again, Lee revisits his theme of lust and how powerful it can be during her character development and especially the sex scenes. There was a scene after she finished having sex with Leung and goes to report to her superior officers. She then describes to them how she must endure and pretend to love Leung wholeheartedly as a part of her role, and how she endures the prolonged sessions of sex only to hope for them to crash in the door and shoot Leung in the back of the head to have his brains and blood splattered all over her body. All in all, it was a very notable and powerful acting job on Ms. Tang's behalf and definitely refreshing to see a younger actress take on a serious role like this and really tackling it.

There were also some lighthearted moments sprinkled throughout the film, which had an excellent score to accompany it. The cinematography, costumes, scenery, etc. were all first rate. The real meat of the film, however, was within Ang Lee's direction, Tang's acting, and of course, the intense sex scenes that powerfully depicted lust, no holds barred, with anger, frustration, hate, and all the other negative emotions associated with it. Interestingly enough, the only moment in the movie where both Leung and Tang's characters felt a mutual love was not in bed, but in the Japanese brothel when Tang performed a song for Leung.

All in all this was a delicate and exquisite movie that was carefully planned and filmed, with attention to every detail. It offers a profound and in depth examination of lust. I recommend that everyone should experience the movie once, regardless of the 2.5 hours length and explicit sex scenes - it was well worth the time.
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Judge LUST CAUTION a day later.
KJacob7329 September 2007
When I saw LUST CAUTION yesterday I wasn't sure what to think. There were moments of transcendence and many others of what, at the time, seemed like tedium. I was frustrated that I couldn't decide if this was a masterpiece right away as I was with BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN, THE ICE STORM, and CROUCHING TIGER HIDDEN DRAGON. When I woke up this morning I couldn't stop thinking about it. It has haunted me all day and I want to see it again. Perhaps my expectations were so high that I had trouble appreciating what I was watching. More than likely I was anticipating the already notorious sex scenes. In any case LUST CAUTION is another masterpiece by Ang Lee that may take time for some to appreciate it. Years to come it will be studied and watched compulsively. It will strike debate among cinephiles of its worth. Most importantly it will be a film to be treasured, perhaps not by many, but by a very enlightened few.

During the sex scenes I was holding my breath. Lee's slow burn toward these instant classic scenes was like foreplay leading to an explosive climax. Lee's themes of repression and double lives continue in LUST CAUTION. I look forward to savoring and arguing about this film for years to comes.
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A Cautious Tale about Blind Love
janyeap31 August 2007
Warning: Spoilers
Excellent! Excellent! This film really injects the visual meaning of 'caution' throughout the film - at least till close to the finale. There are numerous instances when I was reminded of the film's appropriate title, "Lust, CAUTION"! Indeed, a remarkable visual achievement that cooks up metaphors to provide so much food for thought.

Two characters, who are supposed to understand the nature of their duties and responsibilities, gradually becoming suckers to their self passions and sentiments… not unrealistic for the many who may recall the 1963 Profuma Affair that brought down the Harold MacMillan government in Britain, or even the Mark Anthony and Cleopatra tales! In this film, the supporting actors play very minor roles in the film. This actually impresses me more to make me consider that a person's downfall oft results from his/her weakness, especially in relation to his/her uncontrollable passion and sexual urge. Love is blind... as the saying goes.

The film's flashbacks are well crafted to introduce Mr. Yee and Jiazi and to focus on their persistent, strong and certainly up-to-no good, determined characteristics before they succumb to their sentimental temptations and passions.

The scenes of stylistic elegance of the Colonial Hong Kong being clouded by Japanese Occupation, and scenes of Shanghai with its bleak post-Qing Dynasty signs of chaos, together with the expected Second Sino-Japanese War terror, flow through the film at a good pace. The urban crowded characteristics of these cities, with their tenement-blocked living, marked with social and political upheavals and turmoil, and class exploitation are artfully exhibited - the allure and historical trauma of both cities so subtly revealed without over-shadowing the performances of Tony Leung and Tang Wei! It was certainly captivating to watch how this film celebrates Hong Kong's urban identity while also mediating its historical relationship with Shanghai. Just like with Mr. Yee and Jiazi, perils and pleasures of modern urban life are inescapable for the two cities.

Director Ang has also amusingly mixed Chinese sensibilities and Hollywood influences to give Shanghai that dangerously cool, and seductively sexy appeal that does help to raise question of the stake this city faces with the presence of Mr. Yee and Jiazi. After all, didn't Shanghai become a locus center of vice and degradation - a foil to the virtues of the countryside? Is the audience, at the beginning of the film, expected to see Mr. Yee and Jiazi as upholders of these opposing modern vs traditional traits, and as far as foreign occupation relates, the differences East vs. West colonialism? For fans of Zhang Ailing who authored the original story upon which this film is based, It's not difficult to relate some of the tragic incidences of the film to Zhang's very tragpersonal life. This film should especially appeal to those familiar with the 1940s history of Hong Kong and Shanghai, and to those who had experienced the inner turmoil, resulting from having to adapt to changing environments.

And I do enjoy seeing this film as an attempt to remind the audience how a couple, passionate in romantic love, often puts in their best performances and stylistic acts to impress one another (as portrayed by Mr. Yee and Jiazi). These love 'sparks' have a tendency not to exist with old married couples as seen in Mr. and Mrs. Yee's love relationship.
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Poignant depiction of turbulent wartime politics
disco_barrio8 October 2007
I had been hyping myself up a great deal for Lust, Caution ever since I first heard of the project, so I'm glad to say that it did not disappoint. The film was a beautifully executed "espionage thriller," if you want to go with how it's being marketed to a broad audience. Steeped in the historically and culturally turbulent period of the second Sino-Japanese War, one must applaud Ang Lee for the dizzying array of minutiae he oversaw as director.

Because of the nature of the film's protagonist Wang Jiazhi (played by a newcomer named Tang Wei - not shabby for your first feature) as an agent working under a second identity to ensnare a dangerous collaborationist (Tony Leung), all the scenes where Wang masquerades as the bourgeois Ms. Mai are fraught with a psychological tension, doubling with the political agenda at stake as well as her womanhood. She portrays both roles with heartbreaking deftness; a great casting choice if there ever was one. While not as physically alluring as some of her competitors for the role - Chinese language actresses including Zhou Xun and Shu Qi - I don't think anyone else could have pulled it off like Tang. She convincingly transforms herself from a naive college girl to coy seductress...and back again.

The film struck quite a few personal nerves on my part too. While mainstream cinema should be, you know, self-sustaining or whatever you want to call it, there's really a lot to this movie that gets lost in subtitling to an extent, but also just in context and culture. Etiquette at the mah-jongg table; the omnipresent yet understated background of wartime occupation; political interests in the Chinese Civil War era; the weight of regional identity in dialects and interpersonal relationships. Tang Wei spoke Mandarin, Cantonese, and Shanghainese. My only thought is: What a hottie.

The sex scenes are...something else. As echoed by most critics, they serve the story perfectly in capturing the urgency that Tang and Leung have in their precarious affair. There's a lot of violence in them, and it is through these carnal and savage acts that Tony Leung's Mr. Yee character is established as a very dangerous man. I won't spoil too much but there were several times when it became too difficult to watch.

There were quite a few moments that made my heart flutter and eyes wobble. I'll just leave it at that.
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A Lust Caution intercourse I enjoy
tennisaquarius24 September 2007
Warning: Spoilers
I went to Vieshow around 7:30pm and saw the schedule of Lust Caution was lighting in red all the way to midnight. It meant full house the whole night. It's kind of rare in my memory. Only summer blockbusters could have this strong performance, yet their ratings were not restricted! I didn't worry about my ticket. I already ordered on-line. Ang Lee, do make yourself at home. We all love you.

And I love the sex scenes. On bed, they use their body languages to show their emotions. Lust and caution are the basic tones, the skin, and what hidden beneath are hatred, anger, revenge, loneliness, redemption, and love. I have never seen so many emotions in scenes of sexual intercourse or lovemaking, whatever you call them.

I felt tense during the sex scenes which are indispensable for the whole dramatic arc. I didn't enjoy the lust part, and the caution undercurrent had my heart dangling. If I want to enjoy sex on movie, I would just go to watch porn. People who want to go for that very reason, be prepared to get disappointed.

I was also moved by those young patriotic students. By them, Ang Lee tells us he was once like them, and still is now, sending message to the audience through art, through culture, and with passion.

Ang Lee seems like to make movie with a lot of metaphors. You can see that judging from the movie titles. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon is not only an idiom, but also meant for the characters and more; Brokeback Mountain is a lost paradise as well; and Lust Caution, for that foreign audience would miss it again, by its Chinese title 色戒 we realize 戒 is also a pun. 戒 is Caution and the diamond ring Mr. Yee gives to Wang too.

The diamond ring, when the secretary returns back and says, "it's yours." "No," Mr. Yee says, "it's not mine."

I guess it means the diamond ring belongs to Wang. So does his love to her. For the first time, I didn't feel a diamond ring is so superficial like in the TV commercials.

From some reviews and news, I noticed Ang Lee and the crew changed Eileen Chang's assassination scene? If so, that is really smart. Anyway, I am going to read Eileen Chang's short story. I am always interested in comparing his films and the original stories or movie scripts. No exception. It's kind of Lust Caution intercourse I enjoy between Ang Lee and me.
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Cinematic, Elegant, Entertaining and Real 2 The Period
screenwriter-146 October 2007
With a sensational cast of actors and a tale of China in the late 1930's under occupation, LUST, CAUTION captures the cruelty of the period with a zest and cinematic journey which enraptures the audience in a tale of revenge-and love. Bravo, Ang Lee, for bringing to the screen such a lustrous tale of Chinese history in which you have also thrown in love scenes which bring to the film an element of cruelty and harshness which are reminiscent of the sexual pleasures of BASIC INSTINCT, but perfectly display the brutal character of Mr. Yee.

The costumes, sets, lighting and the drama of the story make LUST, CAUTION a simply elegant journey with characters that jump off the screen with fury, passion and of course, love tinged with revenge. The film is long, but you can't take your eyes away from the film for one moment as you might miss the brilliant dialog and performances. LUST, CAUTION, makes you think of what it is to be occupied by a power that treats its captured denizens in a world of anger and bitterness and creates a world of hatred and revenge as we see in this intelligent and important film. May LUST, CAUTION continue to gain an audience as it heads into the Kudo season.
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A Nutshell Review: Lust, Caution
DICK STEEL3 October 2007
Early in the movie, Wong Chia Chi (Tang Wei) gets asked to act in a patriotic play, in a time when China was threatened by the Japanese Invasion during the late 30s/early 40s. Little does she know that she's got to carry on acting the rest of her life, together with her group of idealistic young dramatists, as stage feelings stirred up real emotions that calls for the sacrificial of self for the greater good, for the country. What they lack in experience, they make up with their youthful passion and exuberance. And their rawness shows in the way they clumsily set up their traps for the coming of the prey, and fumbling even with their first blood.

Welcome to Lee Ang's world of espionage. It's not glam, and gets draped in many real world sense and sensibilities. We enter a world where Trust and Loyalty are difficult to come by, and with shadows lurking in every corner, waiting to pounce at the slightest of mistakes. But the darkness is beautifully captured, and like its endless rounds of mahjong, you're waiting for that perfect tile to come your way, for the opportune to present itself, for the East Wind to come about. That's how this movie's espionage theme is played out, with plenty of waiting. Instant results and instant gratification do not come easy, and even the finale I found to be less than satisfying, though it provided subtle avenues to keep your imagination running as to how the turn of events have greatly affected the usually cautious Mr Yee (Tony Leung).

Like the movie, Leung's Mr Yee remains an enigma we are trying to have a crack at, trying to, like the rest, understand his secret life. He sneaks around from fort to fort, always with protection, and has this solid wall build around his personal life, that even his wife (Joan Chen) finds hard to break, and letting it be anyway, enjoying luxurious life as a tai-tai. All we know about Yee, is that he's a Chinese traitor in the employment of the Japanese, while enjoying immense power under the protection of his master, readily bolts like a running dog that he is in the first signs of trouble.

Enter Tang Wei's Chia Chi, in a strategy hundreds of years old, and that is to use the lure of the beauty to provide the downfall of powerful generals. As a fresh faced ingénue, she enters the dangerous cat and mouse game at great personal sacrifice, probing cautiously (that's the word again) into the life of Mr Yee, and casting those come hither eyes as bait to lure her prey, relying on others to provide the finishing blow and save her from his evil roaming clutches. In order to enter his circle of trust, she has to play to the sadistic sexual fantasies (you see, I don't think he gets any from Mrs Yee anyway) of a repressed man using her as an avenue to release those pent up rage and frustrations from work, where his job as we know is to interrogate fellow countrymen. It's not a glam job, especially when you're casting your lot with the underdogs.

Lust, Caution is a tale of two lonely people, forced by circumstances to do what they have to. One, to fulfill her ideology and get rid of possibly one of the most dangerous man to the Chinese, while the other, looking for honest companionship. It's falling for and sleeping with the enemy both ways, and in a time where trust is hard pressed, this makes everything more complex, especially when it comes to irrational emotions that overrule logic and guard. It's layered with plenty of betrayals whichever way you look at it, and the narrative kept pace by unfolding each

layer intricately. Which makes it ultimately a very sad love that couldn't be story, the perennial fib to reality.

Tony being Tony, I can't help but think that with his hair slicked back, and his stoic demeanor in well pressed suits, look the more vengeful version of his Mr Chow from In the Mood for Love, though this time round he really gets it on with another married woman Mrs Mak, Chia Chi's alter-ego. He might be sleepwalking through his role here, as he speaks very little and does even less, but comes alive in his scenes toward the end. LeeHom is rather wooden though as the de-factor youth leader, and his romantic moments with Tang Wei just falls flat given that it's not fully developed here, if not for the focus of love between Mr Yee and Mrs Mak.

Like how Lee Ang shot Zhang Ziyi to prominence with her role in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon as a headstrong young woman who comes of age, Tang Wei snags a role as such and it wouldn't be much of a surprise should she gain acclaim and recognition for her role here. She switches between the greenhorn student and one who's living a lie quite easily, and she exhibits linguistic skills (English, Cantonese, Mandarin and even Shanghainese) and even talent for song. Watch those eyes of hers, and her rant during breaking point, excellent stuff.

Lust, Caution is an espionage story that works, and being set in a tumultuous era helped loads in the eagerness and sense of urgency required, and how patience in getting everything set up for that one shot one kill opportunity makes it a constant tussle, both for the characters, and how events get played out.
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This is essentially an Asian Film
paula_nocon22 September 2007
I resent that this movie is marketed as an "espionage thriller", or that it's a thematic follow- up to Brokeback Mountain, or that it got an R rating for its graphic sex scenes. It is much more than that. It is a film set in Asia, by an Asian filmmaker, with a special resonance for Asian moviegoers.

I think this is a very personal film for Ang Lee - betraying his private thoughts on his homeland, on sexuality, on truth, on love.

Here in Asia, one shared event in our history binds us all - the Japanese occupation during WWII and all the horrors that came with it.

To retell the anguish of that time through a torrid affair between a collaborator (traitor) and a spy is a brave commentary on how we Asians respond to traumas both personal and collective.

Mr Lee raises unearths some complex emotions towards identity and truth, as revealed in only the most intimate moments between illicit lovers in times of extreme duress.

That Lee chose to make such a film after his phenomenal success in Hollywood, and during this period of phenomenal progress for modern China, gives Lust Caution a heightened sense of relevance and urgency, a film that can potentially invite questions on what it deeply means to be Chinese, to be Asian.

Lee is a master, Tony Leung is divine, Tang Wei is a slow-burning revelation. I highly recommend this film to Asians and non-Asians alike.
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A Rare Pure Cinematic Experience
George_Huang25 September 2007
A wolfhound brings out what Ang Lee so called "amuck atmosphere." This might not necessarily be Eileen Chang's intention, but Lee achieved his practical "masterpiece" through expressing his feel for this short story.

Just right before the task seems about going to end, Wang Jiazhi memorized, from an innocent college girl to a highly skilled actress and patriot, this extremely dangerous ambition kept circling around her mind and couldn't possibly go away may because of her ideal of doing something big and important, may because of proving that she's not only a puppet, or may because of a man that she can't get him out of her head.

A terrific ensemble cast. Tang Wei, who played the soul of the film, transformed herself into the leading character successfully through an unfamiliar face to audiences and has the acting of unattached perfection just like Zhang Ziyi. Though she got set up to get involved with this role by Lee, the result shows that her efforts worth every second.

The best performance of Tony Leung by far, every look and movement is very precise. Though it's also postmodern and the same kind of costumes, the effect is totally different from the images in Wong Kar Wai movies. Even he has been through several villain characters, the devotion and outcome that he put in this role is never been seen before.

As for the controversial sex scenes that gather all the spotlights, they all take important places in the film just as Lee said. Even there's no sign of sex in Chang's story. Except the power demonstration of the leading male role, Mr. Yee, Wang learned to use her sex power, the abreaction from the huge frustration of both their occupations and the struggle and joy they soaked in the functioning sex. They could very likely be the perfect match for each other that they can never find another one in this lifetime.

The second-time Mexican cinematographer for Lee, Rodrigo Prieto, French musician Alexandre Desplat, the senior Korean designer Lai Pan, and Lee's longtime partner editor Tim Squyres. The global combination achieved the great technical support besides the compelling story and the feast of performances.

The funny part is Lee chose short stories back to back for his film. The time line of the previous one goes across over 20 years. As for the latter one is just an afternoon. Sure it seems like a story in a decade, but after all they are the flashbacks of the leading female role.

This movie definitely goes beyond the achievement of "Brokeback Mountain," which is already very brilliant. While showing the conflict of sense and sensibility, it also pays tribute to a bunch of classics and the master creators which reflect the mind of the roles and are inherited such as "Casablanca," "The Godfather," "Suspicion," "Penny Serenade," "Last Tango in Paris" and "In the Realm of the Senses." This is not only the best screen adaptation of Chang to date but also a must-see of all time.
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A beautiful masterpiece
Gordon-117 October 2007
This film is about a woman enticing a top ranking official in the occupying Japanese government, in order to assassinate him.

I am very impressed by this film after just watching 5 minutes of it. The mahjong scene is very well made. Behind all the gossip, it has so much subtle tension. Everyone is secretly calculating another and planning their next move, both in the game and outside the game. Another striking thing that I noticed is that the panning motion of the camera. I am sure it is very tricky to get it right! A continuous shot of taking a piece of mahjong, then the hand of tiles, then throwing the unwanted one away. All done in one shot. It's really good camera work.

There is a lot of complex emotions, both expressed and implied. For example, Wang Jiazhi's pain of having to give up her virginity is skilfully implied. Later, her pain of being intimate with Mr Yee is expressed in a rage. The psychological games in the subsequent parts is well portrayed. Wei Tang is masterful in playing her role. She portrays a wide variety of facial expression and bodily gestures so naturally and skilfully. Her power of seduction is undeniable. The surreal atmosphere that she creates when she is Mai Tai Tai is stunning. I have never heard of her before, and I hope she will get to play in more film in the future.

Despite the film being two and a half hour long, it did not feel like it at all. In fact, I am glad that Ang Lee gives us enough time to appreciate the beauty of the film. The plot is gripping, and there is a lot to be pondered on. Men have to caution against lust, while for women, they may have to caution against something else. I will no reveal it here, watch the film to see for yourself.

This film is a beautiful masterpiece. Just a side note, the sexuality in this film is so extremely the polar opposite compared to Ang Lee's last film "Brokeback Mountain". I find this very interesting.
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Ang Lee's masterpiece, Cultural nuances in the way of understanding
snowerlewn16 April 2008
Warning: Spoilers
Ang Lee's Lust, Caution got a lot of negative reviews in the US. I was shocked. I always thought Lee, of all people, could convey the nuances of Chinese culture to a Western audience.

I admit I love this movie, as I do all his work, except The Hulk. And I'm not implying you have to give it the thumbs-up because it won the Golden Lion. However, after reading dozens of reviews from mainstream media in North America, I have a strong feeling that most critics failed to understand the movie - not only the subtleties, but even some of the plot. Of course, the two are often interconnected.

Rex Reed of The New York Observer called Mrs Yee "silly" because he assumed she is oblivious to her husband's trysts with other women. This couldn't be further from the truth. From how she reacts to her husband's emotional breakdown in the last scene, it is obvious she is in the know. There are Chinese wives who feign ignorance of their husbands' affairs, and this is probably something an American film critic cannot grasp. Shouldn't she be throwing a tantrum? They might ask.

Rex continues: "Neither of the two stars look like they're having much fun." I wonder what movie he was watching. Of course they were not having fun. This is not a romantic comedy. The lady is scheming to kill him, and he is figuring out whether she is another beautiful assassin sent his way. They are both walking on razor's edge, which is not a fun activity.

Most critics call the movie a spy thriller without realizing the multiple layers of the story. It is mostly psychological, with the two leads constantly testing each other and using a language rich in undertones. Almost every line has so much texture it could take a few more lines to decipher.

Many see a resemblance with films of similar plots, such as Paul Verhoeven's Black Book and Hitchcock's Notorious. But they fail to see the link to previous Lee masterpieces such as Sense and Sensibility and Brokeback Mountain. Think of it. "Lust" is "sensibility" while "caution" is "sense". Both leads - and even some of the supporting characters - have to maintain a life of caution for self-survival. When they succumb to lust or passion, they pay the ultimate price.

The three sex scenes received such widespread misinterpretation that trimming them might not be the terrible idea it should be. People got so carried away with the S&M and acrobatic couplings that they forgot to detect the symbolic meanings. The scenes epitomize their relationship, from domination, to distortion, to harmony. That's something a simple head shot could not convey. And it does not necessarily imply the lady loves to be tortured. That would be the same as saying she is a gold-digger who falls for a precious diamond.

The definite moment when she falls for him is at the Japanese club when he reveals his weakness. (He has a hunch his future as a collaborator is doomed.) She has a soft spot not for his power and money, but for the latent humanity he finally lays bare. The big stone just confirms his feelings for her, in her mind.

American critics are quick to pick up the clues of Hollywood movies that appear in the meticulously portrayed old Shanghai and have found an allusion to Hitchcock's Notorious, but nobody seems to have noticed that Mr Yee's every move is watched by his secretary, who knows his lover's secret identity and will probably bring about his downfall.

Human emotions writ large can transcend boundaries. It is the niceties that cause cultural misunderstandings.
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Words of Caution about 'Lust'
janos45130 September 2007
Too long, too slow, too self-indulgent, and too brutal in its graphic sex scenes, Ang Lee's "Lust, Caution" is a film not to be missed.

Whatever misgivings there may be about it, this festival-winning film is a mesmerizing, rich experience. After 2 1/2 hours of being bombarded with a World War II love-and-hate story that's both exciting and dragging, chances are you will be still pinned to your seat, anxious to find out how it ends.

The "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" and "Brokeback Mountain" director has turned his attention to war-threatened Hong Kong in 1938 and Japanese-occupied Shanghai in 1942 (complete with a "safe Japanese zone"), seen through the eyes of a group of young Chinese resistance fighters.

Based on the late Chinese-American writer Eileen Chang's short story of the same name, the focus of "Se, jie" is the relationship between Mr. Yee, head of the ruthless Japanese-collaborator security forces (played by Tony Leung, leading man of some 80 films) and a young actress with the resistance, played by Wei Tang, in her very first film role.

They make a strange pair, both in the roles and as actors. Of the story - a cat-and-mouse game between the seductress/underground agent and the Japanese puppet/lord of life and death among the occupied - the less said the better in order to enjoy the movie. As actors, it's a veteran facing a new challenge and a novice who shows great skill and assurance.

Leung has always been a brooding, symphathetic, worn-but-handsome presence, especially in his collaborations with director Wong Kai War. Here, for the first time, he plays not just a heavy, an ugly character, but a scary, unhappy, murderous man, literally a dark figure, lurking in the shadows. It's a great performance, fully realizing both aspects of the character: the monster and the man.

Lee's love for the cinema classics is shown both in his use of excerpts from Hollywood greats (as the young actress frequents movie theaters) and in his creation of memorable images. This is a director with a painterly sensibility and the ability to transform objects into instantly memorable pictures. Never will you see mahjong again without recalling "Lust, Caution." Few of Lee's favorite classics can match the simple effectiveness of his final image here, of a sheet with slight depressions left by what rested on it shortly before: white on white, and yet meaningful and affecting.

Leung and Tang fairly monopolize the screen, but the rest of the large cast is outstanding, led by San Franciscan Joan Chang as Yee's wife, and the vivid individual characters in the resistance, including the American-born Chinese pop star Leehom Wang.
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My view
lcview28 September 2007
Many people already wrote the plots of "Lust, Caution". I don't repeat again, I just have a few words here...

I have read many reviews from the professional film critics. Some are extremely insulting, and those people didn't understand the film at all. I felt sorry for Ang Lee and all people who worked hard for the film.

"Lust, Caution" is a pure Chinese drama with the bloody China-Japan war and the Chinese cultural context of 1940s: slow pace, old Shanghai, mahjong, the traditional song, hatred, love, loneliness, and the souls of students and traitors.

Do not forget the cultural differences: Western people play the card games; Chinese people play the mahjong games. I don't know either, I always see the body languages of the players.

I personally dislike the raw sexual scenes, however, the film is still a masterpiece!
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Ang Lee is a real genius !!
bonjour82428 September 2007
Warning: Spoilers
After watching the preview of "Se--Jie", I was so shocked and felt really really awful !! Being Mr. Yee and Wang Jiazhi are so hard. Every scenes are so important and memorable and they can't stop appearing in my mind ! Tony and Wai Tang are really great and they could bring you into the movie. Both of them are poor and pathetic : Jiazhi was only 23 years old but she suffered such a miserable life that no one can imagine, she fell in love with a person that she shouldn't love. Mr. Yee was portraited as a cold-blooded person and he, in fact, is a true human with love. He had to keep himself alive so he helped the Japanese. I am sure he didn't want to (He hated Japanese actually)!! He loved Jiazhi and bought her a ring as a commitment but soon discovered that his true love is a spy.

All characters in this movie were so selfish, including those who called themselves as patriots. They all have some kinds of intentions like making revenges. I really hate that guy who burnt Jiazhi's letter, he is a LIAR !!

Jiazhi devoted herself into the love of Mr. Yee that she chose Yee rather than her first love and let Yee ended her life (she could have taken her pill). I don't know if her purpose for letting Yee killed herself is making revenge or putting a tattoo of love in Yee. She had the chance to kill Yee while having sex with him but she didn't and she refused to kiss her first love, Kuang. She might not realise her love to Yee but she knew it when receiving the ring from Yee whose eyes are full of love.

Yee was a lonely and insecure guy that he hardly could find someone to talk to and finally he found one but the wrong one......

Love is so terrible that it makes people doing things that are unpredictable......

The movie was great but not perfect : Ang failed to convey the anger of being occupied by the Japanese - He tried to emphasize it but not strong enough. Also, the last scene of Mr. Yee escaped from the jewellery shop was so hilarious and was ruining the mood of the movie. (Maybe Ang intended to do it to tease at those people who cared about the lives and did stupid and foolish things) Ang is a genius in presenting the emotion and feeling of people. His new movie was not that disppointing as the media said. The media was so superficial to focus only on the sex scenes which were not as violent as it reported. The three sex scenes were not weird and I could truly experience the emotional change of Yee and Jiazhi thru them.

I've watched almost all movies of Tony Leung - he is my five-star actor. Wei Tang is a talented actress and I really hope she would be more famous in the international stage.
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A believable romantic story
lcbetty200221 October 2007
Warning: Spoilers
I saw the film yesterday with my boyfriend and totally enjoyed it throughout the two and half hours.

As always, Ang Lee is a superb storyteller. Even though the subject is not new in Hollywood (a romantic thriller in a war background), Ang Lee was able to build the plot and characters in a very believable way with plenty of twists and details that keep the audience absorbed. What started out as a group of students' patriotic attempt to kill a bad guy in a short summer gradually spinned out of control and took them to a 3-year journey full of blood and ended with death. The turning point was the killing of Tsao - Mr. Yee's underling who threatened to tell on them. It was the most raw and messy killing I've ever seen - Kuang took the first stab with trembling hands, but the guy wouldn't die. He stood up and began to walk toward the door. Everybody was terrified, but they had no choice. A second student ran up and gave another stab. The guy fell, blood flowing everywhere. Yet he stood up again and continued to move. Then came the third and fourth stab... until every student had blood on their hands. In that seemingly forever scene, the guy's eyes kept wide open as if he still believed he had a chance to live...

Tony played a very convincing character of Mr. Yee, from his first appearance emerging from the darkness of the secret police headquarter. Ang Lee didn't bother to show him performing a torture. In fact Mr. Yee was a man of few words and kept his face expressionless most of the time. However, if you look at his eyes, there is no mistake how evil and dangerous this man is. It's amazing how an actor can create such a powerful presence so subtly. Then as his relationship with Zhijia evolved, his other emotions were released – the fear, desperation and self-hatred in his eyes became more and more apparent each time he made love with Jiazhi. A couple of times he even showed some soft feelings toward the woman. Toward the end of the movie he had the first sincere smile when Jizhia put on the diamond ring he gave her. Unfortunately that was the anti-climax of the story, as he immediately found out that he was betrayed and returned to his old role as a merciless executor. I like the ending. Instead of the Hollywood rule of a final twist of luck (i.e. the princess got rescued), Mr. Yee let Zhijia and her group die immediately. It just befits his character and there could be no other way of telling the story in a realistic manner.

Zhijia's character is probably more complex in the way that it has evolved a lot over the years. She began as a simple, sweet school girl with a talent for drama. Then she stepped into Mrs. Mak's role. To accomplish the mission of assassination, she had to befriend Mrs. Yee, then seduce Mr. Yee and finally became his mistress. Each time she was forced to step up her performance. She portrayed a brave, calm, smart and seductive woman. Had it not being for the ending, I would be convinced that she was born to be an agent. Unfortunately, what happened to her proved how true it is that women are prone to be slave of emotions. She agreed to participate in the action largely under the charm of Kuang, a fellow young man full of passion. Three years later, as her relationship with Mr. Yee deepened, she admitted she got confused as Mrs. Mak, a woman falling in love, rather than an agent with a mission. She was breaking down as she succumbed to a powerful man both sexually and psychologically. In the final moment, she chose to save the life of the man she loved, despite the morality call and the unavoidable ending of herself and her fellow agents.
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I have a mission…Lust, Caution
jaredmobarak30 October 2007
Warning: Spoilers
I can't think of a more prevalent example of misguided trailers then Ang Lee's new piece Lust, Caution. I was anticipating a tale of romance and seduction between an older man and his mistress within Japanese occupied China. Wow, was that not even close. True those aspects are there, but the real story is so much more involved, stimulating, and unexpected.

After following his last Chinese language film Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon with two English language works, it is nice to see Lee go back to his native tongue. I enjoyed both Hulk and Brokeback Mountain for what they were, but neither touched his martial arts epic in terms of scope or success. When hearing about Lust, Caution, I was very much excited to see what he would do with it. Looking more like a Wong Kar Wai movie, (not sure I have the credibility to make that statement seeing as I've only seen the gorgeous In the Mood For Love), I was hoping to get a sense of the character pieces he had done early in his career that I have not yet been able to view.

If there is one thing that stays consistent through the works I have seen, it is his wonderful use of cinematography. With cameraman Rodrigo Prieto, (a man who has filmed works by favorites of mine Iñárritu and Cuarón), behind the lens, one could not expect less. After working with Lee on Brokeback Mountain, he once again shoots some stunning work. The framing is always perfect, many scenes use mirrors and glass to keep all the action on screen simultaneously, and the sexual encounters are displayed with the right amount of care and brutality necessary to get the point across on what is happening. This is one sticking point that has been gaining a lot of press around the movie. Does it deserve the NC-17 rating here in the US? Maybe. Nothing is more graphic than say HBO's new series "Tell Me You Love Me," yet it is more integral to the story. Many of the instances are pretty much rape, and that is something one should know going into it, in case it will deter your wanting to view the movie. However, the overall impact of what happens would not be even close to what it is had those moments been excised or edited. The sex between our two leads is the bond that connects them beyond the jobs they are doing. That physicality is what makes the final third of the film as heartbreaking as it is.

As I said before, though, Lust, Caution is not about the love affair been characters played by the great Tony Leung and startling newcomer Wei Tang. What we really have set before us is a tale of revolution, espionage, and maturing within the confines of a world at war. Tang is just a kid who finds herself the new star actress at her school. The theatre troupe she works with decides that they should do what they can for the resistance, which they are unable to fight in. After its director, played nicely by Lee-Hom Wang, has a chance encounter with an old friend, the troupe gets to the cusp of a dangerous situation. They soon find themselves way over their heads, trying to orchestrate an assassination of a Chinese man working with the Japanese as a traitor to his country. When the event that shows the culmination of their age and inexperience plays out, it is both unexpected and unavoidable. Either way, though, they have embedded themselves into the guerilla war and eventually find that they had no chance to turn back. Meeting four years previous to the film's conclusion at the back of their college theatre sealed their futures.

While at its core we are given a story very similar to last year's foreign sensation of espionage, The Lives of Others, it is shown very differently. Lee allows the story breathing room to ferment and go its course. Each "spy" grows up so much during the four year span of the film. Between the main two, Tang and Wang, along with Leung's traitorous, political general, the evolution of each is shown in its entirety. All three's motivations are clearly laid out and during the almost three hour runtime, the audience cannot become lost because they are shown absolutely everything. So, rather than build extreme tension between two people, like in the German film, Lee allows for a slow construction of backstory and relationship with all involved. All our principals grow together or apart based on what they allow themselves to do for the "good of their nation." No matter how good the story itself, the film would be nothing without its magnificent acting. It is Tang and Leung that carry the movie. With so many moments of silent expression between them and some tough to stomach scenes in bed, these two amaze. The emotions are always prevalent and the decisions they make never stray from character. Yes, their relationship is unconventional, but the bond they forge cannot be taken lightly. While the middle portion might seem a bit long and monotonous to a point, the finale is a feat of genius. From Tang and Wang's final look into each other's eyes and Leung's reaction to the clock's strike of ten, all you can think is how Lee let this story be told as it should. So, I guess while I chided the industry for their almost suicidal handling of foreign films, I do need to give them some credit for still letting us Americans, who don't mind reading subtitles, view them in their unedited glory. (Well at least some times, if this was a no name director and not Lee, I wouldn't have been surprised if the producers changed the ending and shaved an hour off.)
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Two repressed souls reaching out for human connection
Oopsy-Daisy27 November 2007
Warning: Spoilers
I watched the film many weeks ago, but wasn't able to post a comment. I had a hard time absorbing it. It took me a few days to finally get over the depressed state of mind I was in. To me, Wong was a shell before she became Mak Tai Tai. She needed to be in that role for her own mental survival. Only by acting could she find her way to her own identity. I'm still not 100% convinced that it was love between these two. To me, it's two very lonely and repressed souls making a human connection. The explicit sex scenes were necessary. The sex acts portrayed their need to feel each other's own individual's existence by torturing or be tortured physically. The orgasms Wong experienced were not joyful. It was a fulfillment of finally letting herself feel what she real felt and shared it with another human being. It's the same with Mr. Yee. He was finally able to find someone that he could let his guards down and release all his fears and guilt. Does the "Quail Egg" play a big part in Wong's decision to let Yee go? Absolutely! I'm a female, and I tried to understand her mental state at the time. It was never about the value, but the meaning behind the value. She was nobody. Now, she is at least worth that Quail Egg to somebody, even if that somebody is her enemy. Women are strange creatures. I would've done the same thing if I were in her position. At the end, she scarified herself and the whole entire compatriots to attain that moment of truth for herself.

I love this movie. I love Brokeback Mountain, too, but I really get this movie. I watched every film made by Ang Lee except "Ride with the Devil" because the DVD I rented was damaged. Ice Storm was simply brilliant. I thought it deserved an Oscar consideration. His films always left me unsatisfied and challenged my mental endurance every time. Although his films were never in the same genre, everyone has a common theme – repressed souls reaching out for human connection. Lust, Caution is a sad, depressed, draining movie. If you like to see it, be prepared to have patience and concentration. In this film, "if you pay attention, nothing is trivial!"
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Proceed with Caution
divadrummer1 December 2007
Lust, Caution is a polarizing film. I suspect some will see this and love it for the setting, intrigue, costumes, and subtle characterizations. Others will find it plodding, opaque, and full of unsympathetic characters. While I realize most drama deals with topics that are unsettling, Lust, Caution brought it to a new level for me: I was so uncomfortable I very nearly left.

Lust, Caution is a tale about a group of Shanghai college students turned assassin during WWII and the Japanese occupation of China. They plan on murdering Mr. Yee, a government official with ties to the Japanese presence. It's a classic Mata Hari-type tale with a new circumstance and a fresh setting. Wang Jiazhi is a young actress with manipulation and deceit skills that border on the supernatural. Despite the ineptitude of her classmates, she easily takes on an alias, infiltrates Mr. Yee's social circle, seduces him, and falls in love.

We can read Wang Jiazhi's character a few different ways. She can be a naive woman caught up in something much larger than herself, and highly sympathetic. While this isn't precisely wrong, I saw something more: Wang Jiazhi is an extremely twisted character; a devil in a blue dress, and a true femme fatale. She agrees to become a spy not just for acceptance among her peers, but to prove to herself and everyone that she can be a starlet. She's obsessed with movies, and learns to cry on cue. She takes on a life of lies as if it were her own, without hesitation, with seemingly little promise of reward or personal benefit, beyond being able to hobnob with the wealthy and dangerous. When Mr. Lee has sex with her for the first time, he's horribly violent, and she seems to enjoy every minute of it, smirking to herself once Mr. Lee's left her. She does protest to her friends, but I can't tell if she harbors a genuine hatred for her job, or is simply waffling. Eventually, Wang Jiazhi lets her selfish and materialistic ambitions completely overshadow her original goal, and endangers all her friends. Reprehensible.

Beyond having a heroine I hate, Lust, Caution has a paper-thin premise. None of the 6 students involved in the espionage seem to have any strong motivations, with the exception of Kuang Yu Min, whose family was killed by Mr. Yee. None of the supporting characters get much screen time, and their portrayals are callously one-dimensional and forgettable. The assassination group is woefully unequipped to deal with assassinating Mr. Yee, and they owe their success completely to the talents of Wong Jiazhi. Before she seduces Mr. Yee, the students convince Wong Jiazhi to do something unthinkable, which seems to have very little practical value in reality or in the story, except to introduce shock value into the movie - about an hour in, and it gets better (worse?) from there.

The sex in this movie is so explicit it's pornographic. Except instead of being turned on (because I do enjoy porn), I found myself burying my head into my husband's arm, which is a position I usually only reserve for horror scenes. These scenes are important, as they're some of the only scenes that establish the dynamics of the relationship between Mr. Yee and Wang Jiazhi. However, these graphic scenes are so frequent and so long, they're simply gratuitous. We're voyeurs looking in on an extremely unhealthy relationship - the sex appeal is gone and replaced with the grit of realism.

Some of the editing made the film hard to follow, particularly at the beginning, when events are explored non-chronologically, without any exposition. Through all the movie, there's an importance on significant glances, and if you're not clued into them, you might miss some of the story. The film achieves some success at noir, and I found the cultural portrayals to be interesting and accurate (from what I know).

Lust, Caution aims for high cinema and loses credibility in the loose story, shallow secondary characters, and shocking sex scenes. What could have been a coy romance is stripped of its charm when the covers come off and we realize how emotionally immature our heroine is. See this film if the concept captivates you. Anything less may leave you bored, confused, or nettled.
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Not another dissection
mcollin627 October 2007
Warning: Spoilers
I had a visceral reaction to this film. Not to the sex or at least not only to the sex. People do and probably always will make decisions in a time of passion be it political, moral, or sexual, that after a time of more rational thought they might not have made. That is what makes us human. This film is about the human condition. I thought it was amazing. I can understand how this film could be difficult to make. This film was at times painful to watch. Painful but well worth the uncomfortable thoughts in provoked.

From a purely artistic standpoint, I thought the photography was also beautiful and the images of the time and place were as good as any I have ever seen.
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More than just a spy thriller: a portrait of a maelstrom
iamconfounded15 October 2007
Warning: Spoilers
"Lust, Caution" is a picture of the power of tremendous forces on that which is ultimately unable to bear the strain: a picture of a tidal wave crushing victims, or of a hurricane ripping through buildings.

There have been many reviews of how this movie suffers in intrigue, and lacks in the typical Hollywood excitement and fireworks. *This is not simply a spy flick!* These reviewers might also observe a natural disaster and comment on how the buildings were all poorly constructed and the victims too weak to provide sufficient excitement and entertainment.

Tang Wei, Ang Lee & co have put together a brilliant depiction of a dark and haunting time when the common person was buffeted and often destroyed by the struggle between titanic powers, emotions, and ideas.

Tang Wei as Wang Jiazhi stands out especially as a perfect victim for the emotional and psychological blows that she suffers from the beginning to her last moments on camera. Floundering in the maelstrom of the time, Wang Jiazhi fights valiantly to grasp at something, anything to justify her existence. The sacrifices she makes and trials she endures become a dark and painful comedy of errors that will be even more poignant for those who can understand her predicament and the times Wang Jiazhi lives in. Each time, Wang convinces herself to plunge headlong into her endeavors:

********spoilers start***********

1. She sacrifices safety for the chance at love, achieving only a passing admiration and infatuation. 2. She discards innocence (with the worst possible candidate) for a patriotic cause, gaining only a bloody consolation for a lost prize. 3. She sells her inheritance for a chance to study, only to be forced to learn something she despises. 4. She suffers the unspeakable for a chance to complete a mission, only to be drawn in by the enemy. 5. Coming full circle, she compromises the mission for the hope of love and safety, throwing away life and the respect of friends in one fell moment.

*********Spoilers end**************

The failures of Wang Jiazhi pursuits are shocking to point of comedy at times, just as one might gasp and laugh coldly in near disbelief at extreme tragedy and carnage. However, Wang Jiazhi's story is one that would only be all too common in that day and age.

While the NC-17++ scenes do contribute to the raw and poignant artistry of the the movie, the storyline and acting is enrapturing in and of itself. The sophisticated and empathic audience is sure to find this film a winner that will haunt their thoughts long after more foolish viewers have lost interest.
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A truly terrible film that I really wanted to like
neaonbhb21 June 2011
Warning: Spoilers
So. In the interest of full disclosure I should probably point out that my wife is Chinese, had heard good things about this movie, and half- drug me to the theater to see it. I wasn't opposed to seeing it, I just didn't have any strong feelings about it one way or the other. Boy oh boy, did that change after I stumbled from the theater, noticeably dumber. How an exceptional film maker like Lee could make a movie like this with so much potential and fail on so many levels I have no idea, but this movie is a meteoric rocket crashing to earth with a dull, lifeless thud.

Of course, my wife (again, being Chinese), loved the movie. Well, maybe she didn't love it, but she liked it. Its probably not on her top 10 list or anything, but she might like to watch it again.

Long review short, if you're a Chinese woman, you might like this film. If you're a discerning movie goer that is critical of what you see and doesn't take anything at face value, you very well might hate this film.

So how does this movie fail?

The problems with the movie are almost unilaterally a reflection on the motivation of its characters. They continually choose to do things and act in ways that are utterly and ridiculously opposite to how a real person might really act in that situation. The group refuses to act out their plan unless their prey makes 3 steps forward. Mak runs screaming down a street like a child when the group succeeds in the murder of a target. Mak falls in love with Yee while he treats her like trash, property and an object. Mak progresses from just standard female stupidity into full-blown sexist stereotype when she sells out not only herself, but the entire group, for the gift of... wait for it... a diamond ring! Was this movie bought and paid for by Zales?? "Oh, here's a big diamond, THIS proves my love for you (not when I was smacking you around a while back...)"

Its weird, but the movie works better as a cautionary tale for women and their notorious materialism -- "Watch out ladies, if you think a diamond is the same thing as love, you might find yourself getting shot in the back of the head in a ditch" -- than it does as a drama or suspenseful film. Of course, there's no need to sit through almost three hours of beautiful garbage to get that point across. Even the heavily publicized love-making scenes were difficult to enjoy. Wei has a beautiful body, but the way she accepts being treated like a punching bag/sex-toy is just uncomfortable to watch and never sensual or erotic as it is meant to appear. If you enjoy those love-making scenes, you've probably also considered tying up a woman in your basement. And really, her accepting that treatment makes sense from the perspective of a spy trying to kill Yee, falling in love makes ZERO sense.

Which is of course the final straw that broke the camel's back of realism. The fumbling inanity of this group of rebels fits better in the 3 stooges than in a serious drama/suspense. The silly requirements they put on themselves for killing Yee are laughable and CLEARLY represent an effort by the writers to extend the story. None of their reasoning or efforts make any sense. Why must Yee step inside the house on the dark, deserted street with no one for miles around before they kill him? Why must Yee be at a perfect spot in the jeweler's store and have been there for X minutes and have everyone be given the Go to kill him before killing him? Why can't Mak smuggle in a gun, or a knife, or some poison, or a ligature, or SOMETHING into their numerous lovemaking sessions to kill him with? Its all done in the service of extending the story, and if one thinks about it, as the writers are hoping you will not, the whole story falls apart.

The ending brings us welcome release - FINALLY those incompetent fools that wasted three hours of our life are dead and we can stumble back to our cars. Save yourself! If you're doing it for the nudity, just rent a porno! If you're doing it for a wife... well... sorry to hear that. Grin and bear it I guess.
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Amazing Film
jrweyrich8 November 2007
I saw this film last night and was just stunned with the visual beauty and the quality of the acting by each cast member. If this film doesn't make Hollywood draft Tony Leung ASAP, then nothing will. I want to see him in an American film. I have been waiting ever since "Happy Together". I was sure we would see him after "In the Mood for Love", I was sure some American director would immediately use him. He will certainly take the Golden Horse & Hong Kong awards next year. The question is will Hollywood have the smarts to nominate him. A fabulous actor! Ang Lee is just superb at his craft. How soon can we have another film from him? The details in every scene will require repeated viewings. It was great to see Joan Chen & the new young actors. A wonderful assembly of young talent. Ang Lee always seems to get the best out of actors--in every film.
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Sentimental Mutation Visualized in Sexual Sequences
lupinyiu26 September 2007
Warning: Spoilers
It is a film of a young woman's prowess and tragedy narrated with a flashback between two current sequences. In a mixed genre of adultery and espionage, the story is told in a unrestricted narrative in which the audience are disseminated with full information some characters don't have. Despite the unrestrictedness in the knowledge domain of the audience, tension mounts on when Jiazhi Wang (Wei Tang) embarks on her mission to assassinate her target as the audience are puzzled with the leads' staging and other diegetic hints on whether or not her identity is or will be exposed.

Director Lee packs the film with sex, a common element of the genre. Lee establishes Wang as a cool girl in the expository sequences by use of apathetic expression (actually a non-expression) under freeze staging. Down the plot, Wang apparently remains tough and firm in her mission, as revealed from her dialogues. Nevertheless, Lee portrays Wang's evolutionary attitude toward Mr. Yee (Tony Leung) essentially by use of the 3 sex sequences in which Wang behaviorally shifts from being passive to active. As a mirrored portray, Mr. Yee's calmness (and seriousness as well) is seen alleviated by his disclosure of his job to Wang in the last hour of the story. Lee in practice builds up a subtle, slow-paced escalation of passion and psychological mutation of both leads, culminating to the diegetic climax.

The carefully choreographed overt sex sequences, in a whole, are instrumental in portraying the evolution of subdued passiveness of Wang toward her target. The sequences witness Wang's gradual sentimental change from taking up a hunting job in fulfillment of her patriotic duty to the nation to an ever deepening voluntary enchantment with her target. Lee goes further from his "Brokeback Mountain" to enhance the degree of explicitness by bringing the leads' body/pubic hairs, Wang's underarm hairs in a close-up in particular, into mise-en-scene to connote the rawness and liberation of the couple's desires.

With the acts of excruciation and execution of spies brought off screen, Lee keeps violence to the minimum despite the blood shedding sequence in the Hong Kong apartment in an earlier plot. There is a slight change of cinematographic style in the film: fast cutting and swish pans at the beginning; slow cutting, static camera and occasional tracking from the middle to the epilogue. While both leads exercise caution along their ways in concealing their respective motives, rationality is, consciously and unconsciously, marooned by lust, the desire for love and sentiments, which eventually render betrayal and fiasco. The film is a narrative on the subordination of rationality to long suppressed emotion and passion.
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WWII, Shangai: a young woman plays a dangerous love game to lure into a trap a powerful political figure who is collaborating with the occupying Japanese forces
omniumhorarum-130 August 2007
Warning: Spoilers
Another remarkable movie of the Taiwan-born director Ang Lee. The plot is rather simple and develops with a rigorous, slow pace, with an obsessive attention to details. The director manages in creating a dark, oppressive atmosphere; "a scary place", "like hell", as he has described the movie. The power of lust is investigated: lust is used to lure a man into a dangerous trap, lust also offers a glimpse of ecstasy to characters caught in a world of violence and fear, lust/love brings people to death. Though not reaching the sublimity of Brokeback Mountain this movie leaves the viewer with a long-lasting impression. Great, intriguing performance of the newcomer actress Tang Wei.
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