Thursday, January 10, 2008

My 'Lust, Caution' review

Judging by the audience seeing 'Lust, Caution' at the weekend, I think quite a few bbcs are going to see this movie so I thought I'd write a short review.

The film's pedigree could hardly be better; It is directed by Oscar-winner Ang Lee, stars reknowned Hong Kong actor Tony Leung Chiu Wai (already known to Western audiences for his role in 'In the Mood for Love') and is based on an original story by one of Asia's most popular and respected authors, Eileen Chang.

'Lust, Caution' grabs your attention from the start, cleverly using a game of mah jong to symbolise the battle of minds between a group of well-to-do women living in Japanese occupied Shanghai in 1942. What Yee Tai Tai (Joan Chen) doesn't know is that her fellow mah jong player, Mak Tai Tai, is actually a resistance spy who is conducting an affair with her husband, a high ranking official in the collaborationist Chinese government.

From here the film jumps back in time and shows how a group of idealistic, young drama students evolves into a resistance cell that plots to assassinate a member of the regime they feel has betrayed their people.

It falls on the shy but brilliant actress Wong Chia Chi (Wei Tang) to assume the role of a 'honeypot' spy who's mission is to seduce and ensnare Tony Leung's character, Mr Yee.

Wei Tang's performance is intense and quite amazing. Her character transforms from a shy, innocent student to a passionate mistress, whilst becoming a master spy along the way. She is totally believable every step of the way. Tony Leung Chiu Wai as the sinister official Yee is excellent too but some moviegoers may feel that he is simply reprising his now trademark restrained, smouldering performance.

There has been a lot of hype about the sex scenes and all I can say is I can't imagine how they could be faked, such is the realism. For me, seeing the couple make love so explicitly is justified as it makes what happens in the film all the more intense and believable.

The film convincingly recreates Shanghai and Hong Kong in the 1940s (although the story is quite claustrophobic and we are not shown the outside world that much) and overall it has a very evocative period look to it.

'Lust, Caution' is an intense, passionate, beautiful film and I'd give it top marks. If you've seen it, let me know what you thought!

Related: Two new Eileen Chang collections published

Related: Tong Leung launches website

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