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Lust, Caution 色,戒



The original text of the story, 30 pages in Chinese, reportedly took Eileen Chang two decades to complete. What amazes me is that Ang Lee, with observant eye for the historical details and calculated scenes of incredible cinematography, stretches this story into a 3-hour motion picture. It’s a film with beauty and danger.

Radiant, humble young Wang (sublime ingenue Tang Wei) has fled her village for Hong Kong during the Second World War. She joins a patriotic theater troupe at her university, and they quickly become a tightly knit group of friends and comrades. Wang’s wrenching performances rally supporters to the cause, but the troupe soon tires of confining their activism to the stage. They plan a perilously bold act of resistance that will change their lives forever–assassination of a traitor Mr. Yee (Tony Leung Chiu Wai), who works for the Japanese.

The troupe casted Wang as a bourgeois merchant’s wife. Yee is a rising star in the “lapdog” collaborationist government, and the virginal Wang will become his mistress so that the gang can assassinate him. Now undercover as Mrs. Mak, she succeeds in catching Yee’s eye, but fate intervenes and he is posted to Shanghai.

I don’t really cared for the explicit, sexually charged scenes, which were not emphasized in the original novella. Art director has done an impeccable job recreating the scenes of Shanghai in the 1940s, with minute details down to coffee shops, vinyl player, costumes, hats, the tricycles, and the signs. Interwoven with Mandarin, Shanghai-nese, Cantonese, and Japanese, it reflects the complicated, convoluted politics of wartime. Funny that much of the social commentaries and historical background evoke from the mahjong scenes, which I find most of the people in audience have overlooked.

11 Responses

  1. Love Ang Lee, so I’ve been looking forward to seeing this. Thanks for the review!

  2. I didn’t watch Brokeback Mountain, but enjoyed Ice Storm a lot. I’ll have to read the novel since I have heard so much about Eileen Chang.

  3. This opens at a small theater near our apartment on Friday. The reviews have been tepid, but I still want to see it because I enjoy Lee’s films.

  4. gentle reader:
    It’s a great movie, even better than Brokeback Mountain in my opinion.

    You might want to check out “Love in a Fallen City.” IT’s a collection of her best short stories.

  5. Greg:
    Bring enough food because this is a 3 hour film and the suspense is so tight that it will leave no room for going to the restroom! 🙂

  6. Heard a lot of noise about this film. The sex scenes are supposedly very explicit, and thus controversial. I was going to pass it until the dvd comes out but now I change my mind. Thanks for posting the review.

  7. You said the re-creation of the 40s’ Shanghai was v well done.

    Someone once mentioned someth to me which i thot made alotta sense. That we are always so obsessed with nolstalgia like the groovy 60s… post Great Depression period.. etc but many of these people were not even born yet at those period so the actual “nolstagia” is jus a figment of our imagination. In other words, how true or realistic our impression of that period is, is actualli based on wat we perceive onli.

    Just like i’d always had this liking for Singapore in the 60-70s period but I wasn’t even born til the late 70s. So my impression is just a collection of wat i see hear n read. And to claim that certain shows is “accurate” or “realistic” in remaking Sg in this period is actually a little bit pretentious. 😛

  8. Mark:
    Just curious, what do you think of In the Mood for Love?

  9. […] Yesterday I met up with Ken at the Embarcadero Theater. He didn’t know I have watched Lust, Caution and have read the novel 5 times. So we ended up watching Lars and the Real Girl, starring Ryan […]

  10. […] for Japan that persists today. One of the most well-known traitors is Wang Jingwei, as portrayed in Lust, Caution, who advocated peace negotiation during the Second Sino-Japanese War and set up the Nanjing […]

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