Lust, Caution

TO KILL THE ENEMY, SHE WOULD HAVE TO CAPTURE HIS HEART… AND BREAK HER OWN. 

Shanghai, 1938; the city is occupied by Japanese forces and university student Wong Chia Chi (Wei Teng) becomes part of a radicalized group planning to kill a government official (Tony Leung Chiu-Wai) who’s collaborating with the Japanese. Director Ang Lee gives the concept of “sleeping with the enemy” a decidedly sexual tinge; the violent, very naked and passionate bedroom scenes caused a stir. The story is vaguely Hitchcockian, but it is the believable portrayal of China at this period as well as the complex emotions that come with Wong’s mission that dominate. Longish, but very high production values (including a touching score by Alexandre Desplat) and superior performances.

2007-Hong Kong-U.S.-China. 157 min. Color. Produced by Ang Lee, William Kong. Directed by Ang Lee. Screenplay: James Schamus, Hui-Ling Wang. Short Story: Eileen Chang. Cinematography: Rodrigo Prieto. Music: Alexandre Desplat. Cast: Tony Leung Chiu-Wai (Mr. Yee), Wei Teng (Wong Chia Chi/Mak Tai Tai), Joan Chen (Yee Tai Tai), Lee-Hom Wang, Chung Hua Tou, Chih-ying Chu.

Trivia: Chinese title: Se, jie.

Venice: Golden Lion, Best Cinematography.

Last word: “Chinese society is taken up with patriotism, which is reflected in Chinese literature. I never knew what women got from sex. So the story kept haunting me. It’s the other side of the patriotic story. It was scary – but I decided to be honest and confront it. The whole thing generated lots of adrenalin. Also, Eileen Chang’s story paralleled my own life. When she [Wang] goes on stage it changed her life. She went out with her friends on a high. Exactly the same thing happened to me when I was 18. After acting in a play, I went out with friends in the drizzling rain, just like in her story.” (Ang Lee, Indiewire)

 

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