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Lust, Caution (NC-17 Rated Edition) - suspense DVD / mystery DVD / thriller DVD review
LUST, CAUTION - (NC-17 RATED EDITION) rated NC-17 by the Motion Picture Association of America rating: 4 1/2 stars
Actors: Tony Leung, Wei Tang, Joan Chen, Lee-Hom Wang
Director: Ang Lee   Studio: Universal
DVD release: 19 February 2008   Runtime: 159 min.
Format: AC-3, Color, Dolby, Dubbed, DVD-Video, Subtitled, Widescreen, NTSC
DVD features: Audio tracks (Mandarin, 5.1 Dolby Surround; French, 5.1 Dolby Surround), Subtitles (English, Spanish, French), Tiles of Deception, Lurid Affections - The Making of Lust, Caution

Ang Lee's Lust, Caution marks a brilliant return to Chinese cinema. The director of Brokeback Mountain and Sense and Sensibility returns to examine a period of great turmoil in China. Before (and leading up to) World War II, Japan occupied parts of China. Naturally, the Chinese were none too keen on this and there was resistance.

Wong Chia Chi (Wei Tang) begins as a student in this tumultuous time. She falls in with a group of resistance sympathizers, putting on plays to inspire nationalist spirit. In her role, Wong is excellent. The figurehead and visionary of this theater troupe is Kuang Yu Min (Asian pop star Lee-Hom Wang). A restless Kuang decides he wants to do more for his country: he'd like to assassinate Mr. Yee (Tony Leung Chiu Wai), a Chinese man collaborating with the Japanese in Hong Kong. Since Wong has been the star of the resistance shows, she becomes the main agent of their plot. She is to get close to Mr. Yee and, hopefully, seduce him.

She creates the identity of Mak Tai Tai, the wife of an importer (and exporter), befriends Mr. Yee's wife, Yee Tai Tai (Joan Chen of Lust, Caution fame). Mak Tai Tai and Yee Tai Tai play Mah-jongg together. (I have the feeling that there is more to the Mah-jongg games than I understand; some subtlety in the characters on the tiles is lost on me.) Mr. Yee becomes interested in Mak and tries to get closer to her. Just as the sexual tension heats up (Lust), we see just how careful Yee is (Caution). Mak makes preparations to be more sexually experienced, sacrificing her virtue for the cause. Shortly thereafter, Mr. Yee flees Hong Kong for Shanghai.

This first part of the film takes its time. The pacing is slow, deliberate, like a good plan should be. Hurrying it may alert the prey.

Several years later, Wong (Mak) is found by the resistance and asked to resume her game with Yee. She is older in many ways, and Yee senses this in her. Certainly the occupation has been difficult for all. Wong is able to get very close to Yee - she must give him so much of herself to convince him of her sincerity that she may have to sacrifice those parts for good. Her dialog near the end reveals the pain that we've sensed under the surface more plainly. We become so attached to both Wong and Lee that the inevitable climax is hard to take.

An excellent film, though for some reason not the attention-getter that Brokeback Mountain was, Lust, Caution proves that Lee's skills as a filmmaker have sustained. What a joy to have a director so comfortable with such a variety of genres.

This review is based on the NC-17 version of the film. I'm not sure what was taken out of the R-rated version, but this one features some pretty steamy sex scenes. In the beginning, especially, they are fairly raw and rough; the reason for this becomes evident later in the film, and I feel it's justified. If you'd prefer to tone it down, you have the option of the R-rated version.
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reviewed by Eric Renshaw
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