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By website-editor on 24.1.2024

Lust, Caution

Ang Lee’s last film, Brokeback Mountain, rode a wave of controversy and hype on its romp to three academy awards; the film’s gay cowboy protagonists caused uproar in Bible belt America and the highly explicit sex scenes broke through hetero Hollywood’s old fashioned boundaries.

Though its success was for the most part deserved, the characters in Brokeback Mountain were neither completely believable nor fully developed and as a whole the film lacked the subtle intricacy of of Lee’s new masterpiece, Lust, Caution.

Set in Shanghai and Hong Kong from 1937 to 1942, Lust, Caution is a finely woven and detailed study of war time existence. The plot was adapted from a short story by Eileen Chang and follows the central character Wong Chia Chi, who begins the film as a naïve university student and ends as a stunning, femme-fatale spy.

Her personal transformation is the result of the passionate nationalist Kuang Yu Min, a fellow student, who forms a revolutionary splinter cell at the university after his brother is murdered by Japanese soldiers. The ingenuous student revolutionaries let their love for China go beyond their means, plotting the assassination of the local police chief and Japanese spy Mr Yee.

Lust, Caution features two hugely accomplished, potentially Oscar meriting performances. Tang Wei (Wong Chia Chi) and Tony Leung (Mr Yee) are brilliantly evocative as the violent lovers and share a great deal of on screen chemistry. The much hyped sex scenes are shocking and raw yet, like Brokeback Mountain, pointedly real.

In his latest work Lee has spun a bewitching and beautiful tale. Lust, Caution evolves slowly, twisting like the smoke of Shanghai and Hong Kong’s busy streets. It’s a delight to watch, with perfect cinematography and a haunting, enticing score. The Taiwanese born Lee has once again triumphed: Lust, Caution is very much worth watching and the first major film of the year.

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