Running Time: 157 mins
Rated: Rated R. strong violence, strong sexual scenes, nudity)
Lust, Caution, is a fine film from Ang Lee. Ang Lee has never repeated himself in his genres; comedy in the wedding banquet, English sensibilities and Jane Austen in Sense and Sensibility, American morals in The Ice Storm, the civil war in Ride with the Devil, Chinese martial arts with Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, comic strips with The Hulk, sexual issues in Brokeback Mountain.
He returns to China with Shanghai and Hong Kong settings. The film is set during the Japanese occupation of Japan, beginning in 1942, arousing audience curiosity about the central character, a young woman (a powerful performance from Tang Wei) who plays Mah Jong with a group of matrons, wives of men who have collaborated with Japanese. It then goes back to 1938 and builds up a story about the resistance to Japanese occupation.
It focuses on a group of young students who form a drama company. The young woman is chosen to become the mistress of their main target. When he moves from Hong Kong back to Shanghai, their plans collapse - and are reinstituted.
The film design is excellent, one feels that one is in Shanghai and in 1942. There is a meticulous attention to detail from the smallest interior to the trams in the streets.
The film is interesting in terms of audience knowledge of Japanese occupation, of the Chinese resistance during the war, of the Japanese occupation.
The focus of the title is gradual. However, it is only after 90 minutes that the film moves to 'full on' in explicit lust sequences, with Ang Lee portraying the raw passion of the two people concerned, sadomasochistic touches. Some audiences will find these sequences too explicit. However, this also helps us to understand the psychology of what happens when the assassination attempt occurs.
The performances are excellent. The film shows Lee's strengths in storytelling, eliciting performances, creating a world and a mood as well as raising moral issues. Winner of the Golden Lion in Venice, 2007.
Universal Out January 17
Fr Peter Malone MSC directs the film desk of SIGNIS: the World Association of Catholic Communicators, and is an associate of the Australian Catholic Office for Film & Broadcasting.