Saturday, 27 December 2008

Lust, Caution [2007]


Lust, Caution is a fine follow-up to Taiwanese director Ang Lee’s much acclaimed Brokeback Mountain. It is a dark and brooding film where love and lust are just pawns in a game of cold-blooded foreplay, schemes and deceit. Set in China during World War II, the film tells the tale of a dangerous cat-and-mouse affair between a teenage girl who happens to be a member of China’s revolutionary underground movement, and a rich, powerful, womanizing political figure they want dead. Veteran Hong Kong actor Tony Leung has given yet another gripping performance as a cold and ruthless man who turns out to be a human being after all. The star of the show, however, is Tang Wei – her controlled portrayal of a girl-woman, whose conflicting psychological dilemmas and strong sexual undercurrents play hand in hand, deserves a huge applause. A provocative and disturbing thriller, this tense cloak-and-dagger tale is bound to keep viewers thoroughly engaged as much with its strong erotic content as with its taut narrative. As a reviewer so wonderfully summed up, whereas in Borekeback Mountain, “love is a haunting, elusive ideal briefly attained but forever out of reach”, here it “is a performance, a trap or, cruelest of all, an illusion.”








Director: Ang Lee
Genre: Thriller/Psychological Thriller/Resistance Movie/Spy Film
Language: Chinese
Country: China (Hong Kong)

9 comments:

1minutefilmreview said...

Been done before and done to death. These stories would work only if we have empathy for the girl who had to work her ass for her country.

For starters, there weren't even enough back story of the girl for us to care. There were instances of war-time atrocities which were more poignant than some girl losing her precious innocence we're sure. She didn't seem to mind all that humping now, did she? Where then is the drama?

Shubhajit said...

The intent of the movie wasn't providing a holistic or bird's eye view of the Chinese underground movement or the political factors thereof. That forms the backdrop to the dangerous game of psychological one-upmanship between the two characters. This is more of a noirish movie than a historical one.

And as for the 'humping' part, c'mon don't be so conservative. That was a necessary part of the story, quite similar to another movie you didn't like - Last Tango in Paris. The distance between the two characters' minds are in drastic contrast to their physical intimacy. And at the end we see that even lust has a bit of love in it.

theseventhart.info said...

Have you seen Verhoeven's Black Book? I thought Lust, Caution was quite redundant, with just the backdrops changed...

Shubhajit said...

Ya, I've seen Black Book, though I didn't really like it very much. You're right, there's a similarity in the skeletons of the two movies. But I found the execution of Lust, Caution better because unlike in Black Book, here the characters aren't just good or evil. Consequently they are far more human.

sitenoise said...

All good thoughts here. I actually thought Black Book redundant—I felt like I'd seen those characters and that story before, in that context. L/C felt fresher and more powerful to me in a modern, non Zhang Yimou Chinese historical context. And typically Asian in not creating scenes in some abandoned shelter for characters to bond while creating their back-stories for the audience, ala Saving Private Ryan (which I think it mirrored in terms of emotional, national, history). It was genius, and post-modern of Ang Lee to fight the battles in the heads and beds rather than the front lines. Certainly the mark of a great director to find, and pull, the performance he did out of some girl off the street. I loved this movie.

sitenoise said...

I will say, however, that the little bit of love that crept out at the end almost ruined it for me. It was inappropriate, because the movie wasn't about her. I think Ang Lee had a brain fart just then.

Shubhajit said...

That little bit of love separates humans from cyborgs.

Shubhajit said...

@Sitenoise - sorry,i'd overlooked your previous comment. I thought here's another negative reaction about the movie, and hence my curt reply.

You're right, the war here is within rather than without. The emotional turmoil has been extremely well captured without having the characters resort to outbursts or long monologues. And so I'd still stand by my previous comment.

And yes, the performances are really superb. The restraint and charged emotional impacts displayed by the debutant actress was terrific. Leung, of course, as good as ever - something that can be taken for granted for this amazing HK actor.

sitenoise said...

I'm a Cyborg, But That's Ok
;)