Lust, Caution (18)

Film

Thrillers

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Time Out rating:

<strong>Rating: </strong><span class='lf-avgRating'>4</span>/5

User ratings:

<strong>Rating: </strong><span class='lf-avgRating'>4</span>/5
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Time Out says

Mon Oct 15 2007

There’s a superb and important early scene in Ang Lee’s absorbing spy romance, set on a stylised (studio-shot) Hong Kong tram in 1939, as a young troupe of Chinese actors board, flushed with the rousing success of that night’s patriotic play. (The Japanese have already occupied their homeland, British-run Hong Kong is soon to fall.) The exhilarated lead character Wong Chia Chi (a remarkable, film-dominating debut performance by newcomer Wei Tang) thrusts her head out the window to taste the rain, as if to make physical and personal the night’s small triumph. You see in that moment how the innocent young actress may be persuaded, in patriotic duty, to adopt an alias, spy on and seduce, in order to kill Tony Leung’s collaborationist chief of police.

You could call Lee’s Chinese-language version of Eileen Chang’s novella a revisionist wartime thriller. Its sub-Brechtian moments are muted, but it is more than happy to pay self-conscious attention to the period setting, design and clothes to highlight, in echo of David Hare’s ‘Plenty’, the seductive role of dress as disguise and mask. Like Hare (with his OAS volunteer, Kate Nelligan), Lee is interested in applying an emotional and psychological realism to his heroine’s incredible bravery. It seems, in wartime, some are able to assume grave responsibilties, but – as Lee’s film quietly and provocatively suggests – the actions of those that do make mockery of conventional, sex-based, notions of what constitutes courage, honour, love or even patriotism itself. In this sense, the real battlefield, the genuine theatre of truth, in ‘Lust, Caution’ is the bed – the sex – in the arranged flat three years later in Shanghai, something of a last tango wherein Leung’s previously almost obsequiously mannered ‘traitor’ shows his true colours, and Miss Wong, under her alias Mrs Mak, is transformed by the ever-present knowledge that discovery is death. It’s not a companionable film – Lee’s directorial discipline, objectivity and lack of expressionist touch in the use of either Rodrigo Prieto’s camerawork or Alexandre Desplat’s score can push the viewer close to outsider-dom or voyeurism – but its dark romanticism lingers in the mind.

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Release details

Rated:

18

UK release:

Fri Jan 4, 2008

Duration:

157 mins

Cast and crew

Director:

Ang Lee

Editor:

Tim Squyres

Producer:

Bill Kong, James Schamus, Ang Lee

Cast:

Wang Leehom, Joan Chen, Tang Wei, Tony Leung

Cinematography:

Rodrigo Prieto

Music:

Alexandre Desplat

Screenwriter:

Wang Hui-Ling, James Schamus

Production Designer:

Pan Lai

Users say

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<strong>Rating: </strong><span class='lf-avgRating'>0</span>/5

Average User Rating

4.4 / 5

Rating Breakdown

  • 5 star:9
  • 4 star:0
  • 3 star:1
  • 2 star:1
  • 1 star:0
LiveReviews|21
1 person listening
andallatonce

Unquestionably beautifully shot - perhaps too beautifully shot - this is a rather self-indulgent piece of film making, rather lacking in drama. Its lack of concern for the minor characters makes the emphasis on the leads feel somewhat hollow. the plot is pure and simple and deserved less lingering and more focus. I understand the chinese version cut out Mrs Mak's warning to Leung's character at the end, thereby saving her from an act of treachery. This would have made the film even more dully linear than it already is. So: Not bad. Truly shocking stabbing scene (again cut by the chinese) and genuinely erotic sex (also cut by chinese).

vinny

A remarkable film on so many levels. Great food for thought and definitely one that will require a second viewing.

vinny

A remarkable film on so many levels. Great food for thought and definitely one that will require a second viewing.

Cass

Try to observe how her face portrayed the tremendous inner conflict during and after sex.

Cass

Try to observe how her face portrayed the tremendous inner conflict during and after sex.

Dan

This is one film where the sex scenes really are integral to the plot. Without them the two fatal words uttered by Wei Tang's character, which sets off the tragic chain of events at the end, would not have been plausible. I found the story interesting, the plot absorbing and the characters well drawn. Tony Leung a familiar face from director Wong Kar-Wai's films of course. A great sound track too. Lots of stars for this one.

Dan

This is one film where the sex scenes really are integral to the plot. Without them the two fatal words uttered by Wei Tang's character, which sets off the tragic chain of events at the end, would not have been plausible. I found the story interesting, the plot absorbing and the characters well drawn. Tony Leung a familiar face from director Wong Kar-Wai's films of course. A great sound track too. Lots of stars for this one.

Phoebe

This is the film you either Love it or Hate it... I watched it 3 times, and I love it! You must have some understandings on the Chinese present history before you can understand the story. You must watch it not by your eyes, but by your heart. So heart breaking and so cruel.

Phoebe

This is the film you either Love it or Hate it... I watched it 3 times, and I love it! You must have some understandings on the Chinese present history before you can understand the story. You must watch it not by your eyes, but by your heart. So heart breaking and so cruel.

andy pearmain

Agree with all the above - including the TO review, which makes a change. This is a compelling, complex, grown-up film, which makes great, evocative use of its historical setting; just as good, in its very different way, as the wonderful Brokeback Mountain. The much commented-upon sex is extraordinary - not so much for its rather disturbing eroticism as its total integration into the story. Not a trace of gratuitousness here - it gets to the deepest core of its participants, who set new standards in cinematic sex, and expresses the movies' basic themes of collusion and betrayal more profoundly than any amount of dialogue..

andy pearmain

Agree with all the above - including the TO review, which makes a change. This is a compelling, complex, grown-up film, which makes great, evocative use of its historical setting; just as good, in its very different way, as the wonderful Brokeback Mountain. The much commented-upon sex is extraordinary - not so much for its rather disturbing eroticism as its total integration into the story. Not a trace of gratuitousness here - it gets to the deepest core of its participants, who set new standards in cinematic sex, and expresses the movies' basic themes of collusion and betrayal more profoundly than any amount of dialogue..

Paul

Take a packed lunch, thermos flask and switch off the mobile. This is a film to savor and enjoy a paced build up to an inevitable conclusion. What great cinema to start the year with!

Paul

Take a packed lunch, thermos flask and switch off the mobile. This is a film to savor and enjoy a paced build up to an inevitable conclusion. What great cinema to start the year with!