Viewing your Watchlist and recommended content requires Javascript

  • 18
  • Drama, Romance
  • 2007
  • 158 mins

Lust, Caution

Lust, Caution

Synopsis

A would-be Mata Hari gets more than she bargains for in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon director Ang Lee's erotic espionage thriller

About

Be it the prim Jane Austen heroines of Sense And Sensibility, the taciturn cowboys of Brokeback Mountain or the tongue-tied adolescents of The Ice Storm, filmmaker Ang Lee's specialty has been characters too constricted by decorum and social convention to express themselves either romantically and sexually. That trend ends in Lust, Caution, a WWII saga about two people whose entire relationship is defined by their lustful desire, no-holds-barred intercourse and sadomasochistic leanings.

It is these sequences that have earned Lee's film a restrictive NC-17 rating in the US, generally regarded as the kiss of box-office death. Those expecting a raunchy, X-rated bonkathon, however, will be either surprised or disappointed that these admittedly explicit sex scenes are only one element in this languorous adaptation of a story by celebrated Chinese author Eileen Chang.

Indeed, you have to wait around an hour-and-a-half before the simmering attraction between young resistance fighter Wong Chia Chi (Wei) and Japanese collaborator Mr Yee (Leung Chiu-Wai) finally comes to the boil.

Up to that point Lust, Caution's scriptwriters James Schamus and Wang Hui-Ling have other fish to fry: a nostalgic recreation of 1930s Hong Kong where Wei's earnest student first discovers her passion for acting by performing in patriotic agitprop; her first fumbling inroads into espionage which see her assume a false identity and gamely sacrifice her virginity for the cause (wooing Mr Yee in order to engineer his assassination); and the prolonged murder of a blackmailing traitor by her fellow conspirators that recalls the infamous kitchen scene from Hitchcock's Torn Curtain.

All the above, though, is merely preamble to the main event - the point where Wong Chia Chi's seduction of Mr Yee finally gets serious. It's only here that Lee's film starts to generate real heat and the conflicting impulses driving his heroine come into focus.

Even here, though, there's a chilly remoteness to the saucy action that stops the viewer becoming emotionally involved - so much so that, by the time the Taiwanese director springs his final dramatic surprise, we're simply too distanced to care. We're left with the feeling that whatever message the film hoped to convey has been buried beneath too much period finery and distracting plot detail.

Cast & Connections

  • Actor: Fan Kuang Yao, Wei Tang, Kar Lok Chin, Tony Leung Chiu Wai, Anupam Kher, Yu-Lin Ko, Wang Lee-Hom, Joan Chen
  • Director: Ang Lee
  • Writer: James Schamus, Wang Hui-Ling
  • Writer (Story): Eileen Chang
  • Producer: James Schamus, William Kong, Ang Lee
  • Photographer: Rodrigo Prieto
  • Composer: Alexandre Desplat

In a nutshell

Isolated moments of high drama and some startlingly intimate sex scenes sadly fail to galvanise a turgid and overlong whole.

by Neil Smith

Latest from Film4...

  • Film4

    Serena

    Romantic drama set in Depression-era North Carolina starring Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper.

    On Film4: 3 Oct 9:00PM

  • Film4

    Destry

    Audie Murphy stars in this remake of 1939's Destry Rides Again, which is directed by the man who made that previous version, George Marshall.

    On Film4: 28 Sep 4:25PM

  • Film4

    Macbeth on Film4

    Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard star in Justin Kurzel's gripping adaptation of Macbeth, playing for the first time on Film4.

  • Film4

    Lone Survivor on Film4

    Mark Wahlberg stars in exciting military action-drama Lone Survivor, playing for the first time on Film4.

  • Channel 4 Blog

    TIFF 2016: Top Ten

    Film4.com Editor Michael Leader runs through ten standouts from the Toronto International Film Festival...   The Oath I'd already seen three of the four Film4-backed films screening in Toronto (inc

  • Channel 4 Blog

    Baltasar Kormakur on The Oath

    As his Film4-backed Icelandic thriller The Oath premieres in Toronto, director/writer/actor Baltasar Kormakur speaks with Film4.com editor Michael Leader about making films in Hollywood, returning to

Register with Film4.com

Personalise your Film4 experience

  • Set film reminders
  • Build your watchlist
  • Get film suggestions

or Register

Share