Thursday, January 17, 2008

review; lust, caution

Me and Vic went to see Ang Lee's latest film, Lust, Caution, last night, and I was very impressed with it. It's a long, noirish thriller set in Japanese occupied Hong Kong and Shanghai in the early 1940s, in mood a slow, charged cousin of a Hitchcock movie with flashes of Won Kar Wai's exotic stylings.

It features two enormously impressive turns from an established and brilliant actor - Tony Leung - and a complete newcomer, Tang Wei, who puts in a mesmerising performance as a young student actress turned spy and charged with getting close to Leung's sinister, sadistic collaborator, Yee. Built around a back story which, courtesy of a two hour flashback, delays the film's denouement considerably, it's beautifully done and, with the exception of an unpleasantly long sadistic sex scene which I wanted to turn away from, done with real subtlety.

That said, it lacked the focus and clarity of Lee's Brokeback Mountain, and ended rather unsatisfyingly with Wei wavering in her determination to see through her mission. It is perhaps some consolation to know - as Leung's Yee surely does - that with the Americans around the corner, the end of his corrupt regime is nigh. It's this knowledge, along with Wei's increasing ennui and uncertainty, that finds release in the destructive passion of the film's protagonists.

Lust, Caution is a long, elegiac and rather tragic thriller, and probably one of the best films you'll see this year. I felt a bit dissatisfied at the end, but this is a film about war and what war drives people to - so a little dissatisfaction is not so very strange.

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