Sunday, January 11, 2009

Review: Lust, Caution

Lust, Caution
Released: September 28, 2007 (US, limited)
Rating: ♥♥♥♥

Preliminary thoughts on Lust, Caution: I asked a friend from work what he thought of the movie and he said it plays like a typical Ang Lee film. It starts off slowly but builds to a stunning climax. After seeing it, I saw the truth in his review. I fell asleep somewhere in the middle of the film but when I woke up, I had my eyes fixed on the screen.

Lust, Caution is based on a late 70s short story by Eileen Chang and it's a thrilling tale of love, lust, jealousy, anger, and other complications. In the center of it all is Chia Chi, a drama club member thwarted into a wildly ambitious resistance-inspired assassination ploy against Mr. Yee, a high-ranking official of the government and a known national traitor.

The brilliant plan: transform her into this socialite complete with hair and wardrobe overhaul in an attempt to infiltrate Yee's circle. I'm not sure how it happened (this was the part where I fell asleep) but Chia Chi somehow becomes Yee's mistress and they continued to complicate the situation more with themes of violence, domination and submission. All at once, the characters are loved and hated and I find myself questioning my concept of right and wrong.

Tang Wei, who plays Chia Chi in the film, was reportedly chosen out of about 10,000 actresses. She has very little experience but she still managed to shine in an already overcrowded constellation. I read that her appearance in this film has lead to movie roles being canceled and commercial endorsers dropping at the last minute. I suppose China isn't very happy with the concept of 'glorifying traitors.' Now that she's migrated to Hong Kong, I hope to see more of her in the near future.

This household has always held Tony Leung Chiu-Wai in high regard. I super loved him in Hero, Infernal Affairs, In The Mood For Love, Happy Together, Chungking Express, and even the ridiculously meh 2046. I've always seen him as the poster-boy protagonist. That's why I thought it was silly when they cast him as an evil traitor. But after seeing Lust, Caution (and Confession of Pain), I saw that he was definitely the right choice. He brings a sort of silent-suffering into the equation, something I did not see coming and I cannot imagine anybody else playing Mr. Yee.

It's not a movie you would want to see with your grandparents or your conservative friends. Yes, there are very graphic scenes of violence and all that NC-17 stuff normally seen in nondescript European flicks. All I can say is all these scenes are integral to the story. Sometimes, a half-smile or a minute expression adds a whole new layer to this already multi-layered story and I could not believe they managed to cram it all into a single film. It's not something that I would want to see again in the near future but it was a treat nonetheless. A beautiful ode to love and all its forms, it truly is a must see for all lovers of film.

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