It seems like there is only one thing on people’s mind when they think of Lust, Caution: the sex. While I will admit that the NC-17 rating has plagued the film and will repel audiences from the theaters, those who don’t see it will be missing out on a film that is a perfect example of why Ang Lee is considered a master filmmaker. Simply put: this movie is a great movie. Everyone debates the 10 minutes filled with pornographic level sex but no one is talking about how expertly crafted the story is, how fresh the dialogue is, how great the two lead actors are (Tony Leung Chiu Wai and Wei Tang) and how beautiful the cinematography and production design are.
Lust, Caution is being referred by some as Lee’s Asian version of Paul Verhoeven’s Black Book. I would consider that to be an insult. Black Book was more of a guilty pleasure than anything else while Lee’s film is thoroughly compelling on a Oscar-caliber level. The nudity in Black Book is unquestionably gratuitous while the sex in Lust, Caution can be debated. Maybe Lee does cross the line with a couple of shots but if this is the film’s flaw, then it is a good flaw.
The story surrounds 1942 Japanese occupied Shanghai. Wong Chia Chi (Tang) joins a group of young thespian protestors, led by her friend Kuang Yu Min (Lee-Hom Wang). An opportunity knocks on the door as this group of protestors turns into a cell of assassins of the underground resistance. Through a friend, Kuang is able to place Wong as a spy in the household of a Chinese traitor named Mr. Yee (Leung Chiu Wai). Yee soon makes Wong his mistress and director Lee delves into the very core of her miserableness with these blatant sex scenes. But she must remain patient in order to set him up to be assassinated.
The movie is a lengthy 159 minutes and it is patient viewers to whom the film has the most to offer. Those who enjoy a classic espionage thriller that slowly builds itself up will find themselves lost within the beauty of the film. The third act is a real humdinger. Not to give anything away, but it should comfort viewers knowing that the third act is altogether surprising, unconventional and emotionally devastating and it will haunt viewers long after the credits have rolled. So this is my plea: if you get a chance to see this near-masterpiece, please don’t let the NC-17 rating give you a second moment’s thought (unless you’re under 17 of course). This is absolutely one of my favorite films of the year.
||Release Date: September 28, 2007 (limited)
Rated: NC-17 for some explicit sexuality; Rated R for strong sexual content and a scene of brutal violence (edited version).
Running Time: 157 minutes
Cast: Tony Leung, Wei Tang, Joan Chen
Director: Ang Lee
Screenplay: Eileen Chang (story), James Schamus (screenplay), Hui-Ling Wang (screenplay)
Studio: Focus Features
Official Website: Click Here