Lust, Caution (2007) Poster

(2007)

User Reviews

Review this title
156 Reviews
Sort by:
Filter by Rating:
10/10
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.
223 out of 249 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
8/10
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.
110 out of 122 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
10/10
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.
179 out of 220 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
10/10
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.
85 out of 103 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
10/10
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.
81 out of 99 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
10/10
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.
62 out of 75 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
10/10
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.
68 out of 83 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
9/10
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.
208 out of 277 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
8/10
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.
92 out of 118 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
10/10
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.
136 out of 181 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
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.
46 out of 60 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
7/10
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.
66 out of 95 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
9/10
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!
83 out of 129 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
9/10
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.
10 out of 12 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
9/10
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.
13 out of 19 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
8/10
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.)
7 out of 10 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
9/10
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.
8 out of 12 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
9/10
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.
8 out of 12 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
2/10
Pointless & insulting to women
kyrat11 January 2009
Warning: Spoilers
MAJOR SPOILERS:

Group decides to target evil traitor. Innocent girl forced to seduce him. He violently rapes her (which we are forced to watch). He's shown to be a sadisitic control freak, treats her like a whore, she tells how he f*cks her until she bleeds and uses rough sex to dominate her.

She does not want to continue in her act - wants the assassination done with. You see her SUFFERING through the (ANYTHING BUT erotic!) sex by staring at a gun she could use to kill him. Then suddenly evil bad guy buys her a GIANT SHINY DIAMOND.... and apparently that overcomes all patriotism, pride or self-esteem... so she tells him to run away. (we we supposed to believe she loved him???? Or was it really because it was a HUGE DIAMOND? Or did he finally just break her?) Evil bad guy escapes being killed and then rounds up all the conspirators in the group and they all die (including her). The end.

So what exactly was the point of those 2.5 hours? We watched this poor woman whose family didn't want her & whose friends only used her - have sex and play mahojng and that's pretty much it.

It gets 1 star for portraying old Shanghai which I enjoy seeing (my grandparents lived there) and 1 Tony Leung but otherwise it was a HORRIBLE disappointment. I have watched every Ang Lee movie and enjoyed all of them to varying degrees (the Civil War one wasn't so good). I expected much better from a great director, great actors and even the movie had great potential! So I am especially angry to have sat through that pointless waste of my time and supposedly 4 years of this woman's life.
15 out of 26 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
5/10
This film should be consigned to the south quarry.
jazzcorporation14 January 2008
Warning: Spoilers
I can't understand why everyone is so enthusiastic about Lust Caution; perhaps it's some kind of reflex response to a new release from a revered auteur.

Sure the film looks great and the sets are marvellous, but any film suggesting that even if you are an irredeemable sadistic bitch-slapping psychopath, buy a girl some bling and she will sacrifice herself and her friends to save you, belongs with its victims in the south quarry.

If you want to see a film about a symbiotic sadomasochistic relationship which is actually believable, check out the vastly superior Secretary.
15 out of 26 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
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!"
9 out of 14 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
Deceptively shallow (spoilers throughout)
Ricky_Roma__6 January 2008
Warning: Spoilers
Lust, Caution fails largely because of its sex scenes. However, this isn't a comment on how graphic they are. Many films with graphic sexual content have succeeded as fine examples of the cinematic art – Cronenberg's Crash, Polanski's Bitter Moon and Bertolucci's Last Tango in Paris to name but a few. Instead Lust, Caution fails because its sex scenes don't have conviction. They don't feel organic. They feel contrived. It's like Ang Lee has been thumbing the Kama Sutra and wants to fill his film with as many sexual positions as he can. This alone, this sexual variety, is meant to convey the characters' passion. But it's a sorry substitute for chemistry between actors or great writing.

To make matters worse, the twist at the end, the scene where the heroine Chia Chi sells out her country and her friends, hinges on her love for this traitor she's been sleeping with. Now if you really felt that they were in love or if their lust was incendiary, you could maybe believe the heroine's actions, but instead I sat there wanting to hit myself in the face. This girl is an idiot. She has a bit of sex and her beau gives her the ugliest ring known to humanity and suddenly she's lost all sense. I wanted to slap her. I wanted her resistance pals to blow her brains out. She sells everyone out for a bit of sex.

And its not even good sex. The sex scenes are about as exciting as a Power Point presentation by Al Gore about climate change. We're just meant to accept that these characters are passionate because we get a brief glimpse of testes and because we see the traitor (Mr Yee) huffin' and a puffin' between Chia Chi's wide open legs. But I refuse to believe that there is anything going on under the surface. I refuse to believe in any underlying emotions – they're just not there. And anyway, in the first major sex scene the girl is manhandled and then later she confesses that Mr Yee isn't sexually satisfied until she's bleeding. So not only does he screw her with blank, emotionless eyes, but he's abusive as well. Wow, it's the love story of the century.

However, even though the sex scenes are cold and passionless, for a while I did think that they might have served a useful purpose. I wanted to believe in the idea that Mr Yee knew that Chia Chi was a resistance operative and that she planned to kill him. This might have given the relationship more meaning than one of twisted love. But instead, in the end, with Mr Yee mournfully sitting on Chia Chi's bed after she's executed, it's revealed that the relationship was as simple as it seemed. Two people got a bit of the horn and maybe thought they loved one another. Two and a half hours of film so that I can watch some silly tart betray everyone because some bastard gives her a few orgasms.

But all the talk of sex is missing the fact that there's not actually that much sexual content. This is more of a thriller than a grumble flick. And as a thriller it works pretty well. There's one great scene where a young theatre troupe turned resistance cell kill their informer. It's incredibly clumsy and brutal. It actually kind of reminded me of the scene in Hitchcock's Torn Curtain where a communist is beaten remorselessly and just won't die. This scene has the same kind of desperation. It also has the same kind of lack of glory. All the time in the movies we're shown how easy it is to kill and how wonderful it is slay someone 'evil'. But there's no glory here. The murder is nasty and grubby.

It also marks the point where the actors enter the real world. Before you kind of feel like they're playing at being a resistance cell. But now they're finally playing with the big boys. And it also shows how empty their patriotic plays are. They talk of China never falling and one of the characters wants to avenge his brother's death, but for all their high-minded ideas, they're really just murderers. Yes they're doing it for their country, but they finally realise that taking a human life is a difficult thing.

Another set-piece that is well filmed is the one where Chia Chi is meant to have Mr Yee executed. With resistance operatives looming in doorways and hanging out of windows, Lee builds the tension superbly. It's just a shame that Chia Chi decides to spare her worthless lover. A great piece of cinema all of a sudden had me wanting to slap the bald head of the man sitting in front of me in the theatre. Here's a character who really is worthy of death. Here's a man who is torturing and killing Chia Chi's countrymen, but because he knows how to use his penis, Chia Chi allows him to continue inflicting his suffering on her people.

But speaking of knowing how to use one's penis, there was a scene that really made me laugh. When Chia Chi begins trying to woo Mr Yee, we find out that she's a virgin. Therefore she needs to learn how to have sex. Cue some amusing awkward sexual encounters with one of her friends. At first the guy does most of the work, but later she's on top of him, taking care of business. He then says something like, 'You're finally getting the hang of it'. Chia Chi's reaction is to tell him to shut up. I liked that a lot.

But the same can't be said for the film as a whole. It had a lot of potential, but in the end it's a shallow experience. There's less than meets the eye.
13 out of 22 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
10/10
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.
10 out of 16 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
1/10
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.
11 out of 18 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
7/10
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.
15 out of 27 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
An error has occured. Please try again.

See also

Awards | FAQ | User Ratings | External Reviews | Metacritic Reviews


Recently Viewed