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Summary: Not enough lust and too much caution
Comment: I expected much more out of this film given Ang Lee and an all-star Asian cast led by Tony Leung, but sad to say this film falls short. The story is compelling enough, set during WWII, with plenty of tensions. However, it feels more like a cautionary tale than it does a probing look into the complex set of relationships that underscore this revolutionary group of theatrical students.
It starts out with a group students trying to defy the system only for its protaganist, Wong Chia Chi (played by the lovely Tang Wei), to fall in love with a Japanese collaborator she was supposedly trying to seduce into an ill-fated move. Mr. Yee soon gets the upper hand in the relationship, and Ms. Wong is left pretty much powerless.
It is beautifully filmed, as one would expect from Ang Lee, but the characters never seem to move beyond cardboard creations, and the movie plods to its obvious conclusion, with a few S&M; scenes along the way to spice things up.
Lee still hasn’t matched his early efforts on film, such as Eat, Drink, Man, Woman, despite the increasingly more serious topics he explores.
Summary: A Beautiful Film
Comment: I found this Chinese period piece to be a visually stunning film of romance and suspense.
In pre-WWII era Shanghai and Hong Kong, Ang Lee directs the impeccable Wei Tang and Tony Leung Chiu Wai, as a school girl turned seductress and the successful, yet wounded traitor. Tang must seduce Wai in order to infiltrate his heart, thus making him vulnerable for assassination by the Chinese resistance movement. But things do not proceed so smoothly …
Told in beautiful, color-rich cinematography, flash backs, and just wonderful acting, this story is compelling. I truly enjoyed this film.
Although the ending is sad, as is much of the film, and the sensual scenes graphic (they are quite shocking and long!), I still found this to be a beautiful story, told well with first class acting and stunning visuals. Highly recommend.
Summary: Slow but worth it
Comment: “Lust, Caution” is a magnificent film by Ang Lee (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Brokeback Mountain (Widescreen Edition), Sense & Sensibility (Special Edition)). Bearing no resemblance to his previous films in themes used or in its direction, save for the amazing and beautiful scenes, this movie, as others by Lee, does what it intended to do: it explores characters as they are shaped by the idea, by the emotion and by the revolution love entails.
Wang Jiazhi is a young student during World War II Shanghai. She joins a student group that plans to assassinate a high ranking official by the name of Mr. Yee. Wang, who becomes a spy, must change her identity, become Yee’s lover and sacrifice many things to accomplish her objective. What she did not expect were her feelings for Yee. As each character explores the repercussions of their decisions, as well as the path where their actions have taken them, we, as viewers, see quite the treatise on the basic and complicated thing called love. The characters are savagely shaken to confront their innermost desires, their lusts, their emotions; they are displayed brutally in this film, as their actions and reactions are scrutinized and studied in this film. It is brilliant.
It feels slow at first, but what we do not realize is that Lee is in fact building a bomb. As the tension builds, the inevitable comes to be and the characters face up to their own realization, we are simply in awe, at the edge of our seats, unable to breathe or blink, waiting for the end. The film is beautifully shot and definitely worth seeing.
Summary: A good, but not great film for Ang Lee
Comment: Lust/Caution, a pre-war period piece in Shanghai, focuses on two of the most potent aphrodisiacs: political power and sexual power. There is lust and caution in both, and their interplay is what this film is about.
After breaking through to the American public with his excellent film Brokeback Mountain, Ang Lee continues to create another full length feature from tightly wound vigtnette. But this film is not quite as brilliant as Brokeback mountain, and while avid film-watchers will enjoy Lust/Caution, there will be a slight disappointment that the film wasn’t more focused. The plot is simply too slow, too detailed, to engender a rising sense of caution in the viewer.
What you will like: For a period piece, Lee has Shanghai down to a tee. The sets are truly a joy to see. The acting is also superb. The movie’s plot peak –when the protagonist Mrs. Mak, brilliantly portrayed by Tang Wei, breaks down and admits that her sexual espionage is making her emotionally vulnerable– is the actual climax of all the highly choreographed sex scenes. Lust becomes passion becomes love.
Summary: Imaginary love story
Comment: Not many people will come to understand the depth of this film, unless you’re from that era.
In my opinion, this was a great contribution from Ang Lee to his generation and his parents’ generation.
Don’t be frustrated if you don’t get this beautiful piece. Because this piece is not for everyone.