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February 25, 2008 | by  | in Film |
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Lust, Caution

I always find it interesting to track the paths of directors once they leave wherever they came from and move into Hollywood films. Some continue to make films with verve and panache; some sell out completely and make the Hollywood blockbuster schlock which is sadly everywhere these days; some even return to their native country, trading Tom Cruise for foreign-language megastars whose pulling power in the English-speaking world is unfortunately limited. Taiwanese-born Ang Lee is such a director who has jumped back and forth between Asia and L.A. After the colossal success of Brokeback Mountain, he returned to Hong Kong and Shanghai to make Lust, Caution, another story of illicit sex and forbidden love.

Lust, Caution is set in Hong Kong and Shanghai during World War II. It follows Wong Chia Chi (Wei Tang) as a member of a patriotic Chinese drama group whose aim is to assassinate shadowy Japanese collaborator Mr Yee (Hong Kong megastar Tony Leung in top form). As the title suggests, Wong’s task is to seduce Yee so that her group of amateurs can get close enough to him to bump him off. The film is a metaphor for the webs of power operating at the time, nowhere more graphically than in its explicit, lengthy sex scenes. I also enjoyed the period-piece aspect of the film; Shanghai in the 1940s was a curious blend of Eastern custom and Western artefacts, something which adds to the sense of exoticism and intrigue.

Despite its long running time (157 minutes), Lust, Caution held my attention throughout, something I find pretty rare these days (Brokeback Mountain had me yawning after an hour). I imagine it will be finishing soon, so take the chance to see Ang Lee’s involving take on a somewhat neglected part of World War II.

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