LaineyMovies: Lust, Caution
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New movie entry below – yet another masterpiece from Ang Lee.
I loved Brokeback Mountain. I loved every minute. And if you did too, you will also love Lust, Caution. Having said that, if Brokeback wasn’t your thing – the familiar complaint was “it’s too slow” or “nothing happens” – you might still be drawn Lust, Caution. The crux is the same – the telling is much, much different. Just as visually spectacular and just as beautifully filmed with a busier landscape and a busier plot but since the film has yet to see wide release, I will say nothing to spoil it save for comments on the actors and the sex.
Oh yes the sex.
I was fortunate to have attended a screening during TIFF and even more fortunate to have interviewed both Ang Lee and Tony Leung Chiu Wai. And if you have any association at all with Hong Kong, you are well aware what Tony Leung means to Hong Kong pop culture. It was the one assignment I begged for during the festival. The one assignment I bargained and traded for, calling in favours from other producers to move around my schedule for the honour of 10 minutes with a childhood crush, and one of the reasons I’m still fluent in Cantonese.
You may know him from In The Mood For Love or Hardboiled or Hero. Tony Leung is former Cannes Best Actor winner. But Tony Leung got his start playing a children’s television host and then graduated to soap opera actor in Hong Kong before branching out into film. My cousin Cat and I - we used to head down to Chinatown to rent the videos to catch up, we used to buy Chinese tabloids to see who he was dating, we used to fight about which girlfriend suited him best.
And two weeks ago I saw him buck naked on screen in some of the most creative and complicated sexual positions on film not considered porn.
The movie centres on the relationship between a political traitor and the woman assigned to kill him. In order to do so, she has to truly reach his heart – it goes beyond seduction, it goes beyond flirtation…what these two achieve is at once sensual and sickening. They push each other beyond limits, they torture each other physically and mentally, playing a dangerous game that leaves both of them raw and open and yet still closed.
The chemistry between Tony Leung and Tang Wei will leave you uncomfortable and embarrassingly aroused. It is wrong what he does to her. And yet the character and the story completely call for it. She calls for it. She wants it. So you want it. And in wanting it you end up questioning what is says about you - that you not only would want it too but that you would love it as she loved it even while she hated it, even though violence is supposed to be abhorred and sex when right is never “supposed” to be about power.
Having said that, because that frontier was explored, that scene made the others that much sweeter. When they finally bend themselves into some crazy stereotypical “Asian” positions – and these images will not doubt do nothing to deter those fetish freaks who believe “Orientals” have mystical carnal abilities – and find release while confronting their own limits physical and emotional, suffice to say, at the risk of sounding pervy, it will make you want to spice it up a bit yourself.
Tony’s dialogue is limited. His talent is delivering the unsaid. In the simple clench of his jaw or the twitch of his eye, he can convey what for other actors would require a page of script. And rare is it to see someone so willingly exposed on camera without overacting. In person he is exactly the same. Even the way he walks. When he marched down the hall at the Intercon just before the junket, I thought to myself – he must still be in character.
As for Tang Wei, the new emerging star of Chinese cinema, her performance is nothing short of outstanding. Better than anything Zhang Ziyi will ever, ever do. Better because she isn’t “pretty”. I hope she is the next Gong Li. She is mesmerising. Mesmerising without being conventionally beautiful. I love that.
Lust, Caution won top prize at the Venice Film Festival, virtually guaranteeing a nomination for Best Foreign Film at the Oscars, and deservedly so.
What’s it about? my mother asked me.
You will each draw your own conclusions. For me, like most of Lee’s films, including Brokeback, Lust, Caution is about the choice between love and duty. Let me know what you think she chooses.