Friday, 18 January 2008

Not Film 2008... but a film review anyway: "Lust, Caution"

Lust, Caution
Lust, Caution is the latest release from acclaimed director Ang Lee. Set in occupied Shanghai during the Second World War, this is the story of a young woman who is recruited to act as a honey trap in a plot to assassinate a Japanese collaborator. Complications ensue when the honey trap, Wong (played by Wei Tang, by some way the best thing in this movie), falls for the untouchable Mr Yee.

For every crouching tiger on Ang Lee's CV there is an incredible hulk, and this is a mixed bag too. Yes, it is a wonderfully evocative period piece, but what of the plot? Based on a short story, the credits tell us, one cannot help but wish the film had been a lot shorter too - it is either too long (a good 45 minutes over the top) or just too slow to sustain interest over a running time that tops two and a half hours. Much has been made of the graphic sex scenes, as the cinematic embodiment of a desire that is out of control. Well, maybe, but to me they felt cold, evoking not passion but soft porn, albeit beautifully shot and artfully framed. Rather than leaving me pondering the nature of desire, it just left me wondering how Wong had got into that position...

There is a lot to admire in the way this film has been made and how it looks on screen, but there are plenty of problems too - the mah-jongg scenes feel annoyingly plentiful and wilfully studied, and not enough is made of scenes that could serve to illustrate exactly why the resistance felt the need to undertake such a convoluted assassination plot in the first place. Throw in the fact that the pivotal theme in the storyline, that of Wong falling for Yee, just doesn't feel credible and you are left with a movie that left this reviewer feeling little in the way of lust, but sadly plenty of caution.

Lust, Caution is still on general release, so scurry along to your local independent cinema and make your own mind up. It'll be out on DVD soon too.

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