Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Review of Lust, Caution

As a general rule, I don't watch Chinese movies in the cinema. Mainly because mainstream television usually show the movie within a year of the release, so I will just wait. That and the fact I prefer English movies.

Lust, Caution is different. One is that this was Lee Ang's first movie after Brokeback Mountain. (Yes, you Westerns; it's LEE ANG. LEE COMES FIRST!) I'm a fan of his since Eat Drink Man Woman. Another is of course the censorship issue. Singapore censors were going to chop off a portion of the movie due to several strongly explicit sex scenes; after a big debate in the newspaper, the movie was released again, this time without cuts. This was the version I saw.

The story is pretty simple. Set in WWII, it follows a young woman, Mrs. Mak (Tang Wei), who has a seemingly impossible mission to kill a Japanese collaborator, Mr. Yee (Tony Leung Chiu-Wai), by seducing him. However, while successful in seducing Mr. Yee, she soon found herself falling in love with her target, with disastrous results for everyone.

For those people who think sex cannot be art, see this movie. The movie will not be as good as it is without the scenes. That I am certain of. Tony Leung showed why he is the best Chinese actor in the business with an inch-perfect performance. His Mr. Yee is superb. A tightly-wounded man whose can only let his guard when he is in the bed of his mistress. The only unguarded sound that came out of Mr. Yee happens during the sex. Outside that, nothing. No laughter, no jokes; Mr. Yee is a serious man and Tony Leung played him beautifully. That's why the scenes are important. Without them, Mr. Yee is just a man (and not a very good one to boot) and I would be scratching my head on why Tang Wei's Mrs. Mak let him go in the end.

The film won the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival and swept the 2007 Golden Horse Awards including Best Actor, Best Feature Film and Best Director. I can see why. See this uncut version and I am sure you will too. A must-see!

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