Lust, Caution (film)

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Lust, Caution
Lust caution.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Traditional色,戒
Simplified色,戒
MandarinSè, Jiè
Cantonesesik1, gaai3
Hokkienset, kai
Directed byAng Lee
Produced byAng Lee
William Kong
James Schamus
Screenplay byHui-Ling Wang
James Schamus
Based onLust, Caution 
by Eileen Chang
StarringTony Leung Chiu-Wai
Tang Wei
Joan Chen
Leehom Wang
Music byAlexandre Desplat
CinematographyRodrigo Prieto
Editing byTim Squyres
StudioRiver Road Entertainment
Haishang Films
Sil-Metropole Organisation
Distributed byFocus Features
Release dates
  • August 30, 2007 (2007-08-30) (Venice)
  • September 24, 2007 (2007-09-24) (Taiwan)
  • September 26, 2007 (2007-09-26) (Hong Kong)
  • September 28, 2007 (2007-09-28) (United States)
  • November 1, 2007 (2007-11-01) (China)
Running time158 minutes[1]
CountryUnited States
China
Taiwan
LanguageMandarin
Shanghainese
Cantonese
Japanese
English
Hindi
Budget$15 million[2]
Box office$67,091,915[2]
 
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Lust, Caution
Lust caution.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Traditional色,戒
Simplified色,戒
MandarinSè, Jiè
Cantonesesik1, gaai3
Hokkienset, kai
Directed byAng Lee
Produced byAng Lee
William Kong
James Schamus
Screenplay byHui-Ling Wang
James Schamus
Based onLust, Caution 
by Eileen Chang
StarringTony Leung Chiu-Wai
Tang Wei
Joan Chen
Leehom Wang
Music byAlexandre Desplat
CinematographyRodrigo Prieto
Editing byTim Squyres
StudioRiver Road Entertainment
Haishang Films
Sil-Metropole Organisation
Distributed byFocus Features
Release dates
  • August 30, 2007 (2007-08-30) (Venice)
  • September 24, 2007 (2007-09-24) (Taiwan)
  • September 26, 2007 (2007-09-26) (Hong Kong)
  • September 28, 2007 (2007-09-28) (United States)
  • November 1, 2007 (2007-11-01) (China)
Running time158 minutes[1]
CountryUnited States
China
Taiwan
LanguageMandarin
Shanghainese
Cantonese
Japanese
English
Hindi
Budget$15 million[2]
Box office$67,091,915[2]

Lust, Caution is a 2007 espionage thriller film directed by Ang Lee, based on the novella of the same name published in 1979 by Chinese author Eileen Chang. The story is mostly set in Hong Kong in 1938 and in Shanghai in 1942, when it was occupied by the Imperial Japanese Army and ruled by the puppet government led by Wang Jingwei. It depicts a group of Chinese university students from the Lingnan University who plot to assassinate a high-ranking special agent and recruiter of the puppet government using an attractive young woman to lure him into a trap.

With this film, Lee won the Golden Lion Award at the Venice Film Festival for the second time, the first being with Brokeback Mountain.[3] The film adaptation and the story are loosely based on events that took place during the Japanese occupation of Shanghai. The film's explicit sex scenes resulted in the film being rated NC-17 in the United States.

Plot[edit]

In 1940s Japanese-occupied Shanghai, a well-dressed, attractive young Chinese woman, "Mrs. Mai", is sitting in a café in a posh neighborhood. When she makes a call to a man, her seemingly innocuous dialogue is a coded signal that prompts a cell of young resistance agents to load their weapons and spring into action.

Hong Kong 1938

The film then flashes back in time to the events in 1938 that led up to the transformation of the shy, inexperienced university student Wong Chia Chi into the glamorously dressed and seemingly well-to-do Mrs. Mai, her cover role in the Chinese resistance against Japanese invasion. During the Second Sino-Japanese War, Chia Chi had been left behind in China by her father, who is going to re-marry in the United Kingdom. Chia Chi flees from Shanghai to Hong Kong and attends her first year at Lingnan University. A male student named Kuang Yu Min (Leehom Wang) invites her to join his patriotic drama club. Chia Chi becomes a lead actress in the club, inspiring both her audience and her new-found friend Kuang.

Fired up from the drama troupe's patriotic plays, Kuang urges the group to make a more concrete contribution to the war against Japan. He devises a plan to assassinate Mr. Yee, who is a special agent and recruiter of the puppet government set up by the Japanese Government in China. The beautiful Chia Chi is chosen to take on the undercover role of Mrs Mai, the elegant wife of the owner of a Hong Kong based trading company. She insinuates herself in the social circle of Mrs. Yee. She catches the eye of Mr. Yee and tries to lure him into a location where he can be assassinated. Yee is attracted to Chia Chi and once steps very close to the trap but withdraws at the last minute. It comes to light that Chia Chi is still a virgin, and she reluctantly consents to sleeping with Liang Jun-Sheng, another student involved in the plot to kill Mr. Yee, in order to play into her role as a married woman if she were to sleep with Mr. Yee. It is obvious that Kuang is upset by this, but nevertheless agrees to the two "practicing" every following night. But not long after that, Mr. and Mrs. Yee move back to Shanghai all of a sudden, leaving the students with no further chance to complete their assassination plan. With Yee gone, the university students believe there is no need to maintain the facade and therefore pack up and clean up the rented apartment. An armed subordinate of Yee turns up in their apartment unannounced and finds their sudden packing very suspicious. Spotting their university tank tops, the subordinate realises that "Mr. & Mrs. Mai" are not who they claim they are. The university students kill the subordinate and are forced to go into hiding afterward.

Shanghai, 1942

In Shanghai, three years later, Chia Chi again encounters Kuang, who is now an undercover agent of the KMT, which is seeking to overturn the Japanese occupation force and their puppet government. He enlists her into a renewed assassination plan to kill Yee. By this time, Mr. Yee has become the head of secret police department under the puppet government and is responsible for capturing and executing resistance agents who are working for the KMT. Eventually, Chia Chi becomes Mr. Yee's mistress. During their first encounter Yee is rough with Chia Chi, virtually raping her by throwing her down onto the bed and tying her up with his belt. However, over the weeks that follow their sexual relationship becomes very passionate and deeply emotional, but also very conflicted for both of them, especially for Chia Chi, who is setting her lover up for assassination.

When Chia Chi reports to her superior officer in the KMT, she exhorts him to carry out the assassination soon, so that she will not have to continue her sexual liaisons with the brutal Yee, but the officer argues that the assassination needs to be delayed for strategic reasons. Chia Chi describes the inhuman emotional conflict she is in, on one hand sexually and emotionally bound to Mr. Yee and on the other hand part of a plot to kill him.

When Mr. Yee sends Chia Chi to a jewelry store with a sealed envelope, she is surprised to discover that he has arranged for a large and extremely rare six carat pink diamond for her, to be mounted in a ring. This provides the Chinese resistance with a chance to get at Mr. Yee when he is not accompanied by his bodyguards.

The next time Chia Chi and Mr. Yee meet, she asks him to go to the jewelry store with her to collect the diamond ring. As they enter the shop, she notices several resistance agents waiting to spring the trap. But, after first demurring, when she puts on the magnificent ring, and experiences Mr. Yee's love for her, she is overcome by emotion and breaks down and urges him to "Go, now." Mr. Yee realizes her meaning, runs out of the shop and is rushed away by his driver, and escapes the assassination attempt. By the end of the day most of the resistance group including Kuang and Chia Chi herself are captured. It is revealed that Mr. Yee's deputy has been aware of the resistance cell, but did not inform Mr. Yee, both because of Mr. Yee's relationship with Chia Chi and because the deputy had hoped to use this opportunity to catch the resistance cell leader. Mr. Yee, emotionally in turmoil, signs their death warrants and the resistance group members, including Chia Chi, are led out to a quarry and executed. In the last scene, Mr. Yee sits on Chia Chi's empty bed in the family guest room, and informs his wife that their house guest is gone, and that she should not ask any questions.

Cast[edit]

Release[edit]

The film premiered at the Venice Film Festival, where it won the Golden Lion, the second such award for Ang Lee. It was released in U.S. theaters on September 28, 2007, where it was rated NC-17 by the Motion Picture Association of America due to some explicit sexuality. Lee stated that he would make no changes to attempt to get an R rating.[4] After the movie's premiere, director Ang Lee was displeased that Chinese news media (including those from Taiwan) had greatly emphasized the sex scenes in the movie.[5] The version released in the People's Republic of China was cut by about seven minutes (by the director himself) to make it suitable for younger audiences, since China has no rating system.[6] The version released in Malaysia was approved by the Film Censorship Board of Malaysia without alterations and was rated 18SX—those under 18 are barred from the cinema. His earlier film Brokeback Mountain is banned in Malaysia. It was released on DVD in 2008 with an R-rating since rental outlets and stores do not carry NC-17 titles.

Accolades[edit]

Won: 2007 Golden Lion International Venice Film Festival Award

The film swept the 2007 Golden Horse Awards, winning seven including Best Actor, Best Feature Film and Best Director.

44th Golden Horse Awards[7]

27th Hong Kong Film Awards

65th Golden Globe Awards

61st British Academy Film Awards

2nd Asian Film Awards

The film was nominated for the Best Film in a Foreign Language BAFTA in 2008.

Ang Lee was awarded Freedom of Expression award at the ShoWest convention for his decision to release the film in the United States uncut, rather than editing the film to avoid the MPAA's NC-17 rating.[8]

Controversies[edit]

Censorship[edit]

In its uncut form, Lust, Caution features three episodes of graphic sex, with full-frontal nudity. The ten minutes of sex scenes were considered by Lee to be critical to the story and reportedly took 100 hours to shoot.[9]

In a number of countries, notably the People's Republic of China and India, many of the sex scenes had to be cut before the film could be released. In Singapore, while the film's producers initially decided to release a cut version there which was given an NC-16 rating, a public outcry stating that the producers of the film were underestimating censorship standards in the country (the film was released uncut in Hong Kong and Taiwan) prompted them to eventually release the uncut version with the higher R21 rating in Singapore. The film is rated R18 and was released uncut in New Zealand.[10]

The following scenes were cut from the mainland China version:

  1. Wong Chia Chi walking past dead refugees in the street
  2. Stabbing scene cut to only one knife stab
  3. Two of the sex scenes featuring the student, and three featuring Mr. Yee
  4. A nude shot of Wong Chia Chi at window
  5. Wong Chia Chi in bed after first sex scene with Mr. Yee
  6. Dialogue modified in diamond ring scene so that Wong Chia Chi did not betray the resistance by warning Mr. Yee.[11]

The film's end credits ends with a 18 U.S.C § 2257 notice.[12]

Country of production[edit]

The film was co-produced by the American companies Focus Features and River Road Productions, and Chinese companies Shanghai Film Group Corporation and Haishang Films and the Taiwanese Hai Sheng Film Production Company. The director is Ang Lee, who is a naturalized U.S. citizen, and the actors/actresses are from mainland China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan as well as the United States. It was shot in Shanghai, the neighboring province of Zhejiang, Hong Kong (at Hong Kong University), and some locations in Penang and Ipoh in Malaysia used as 1930s/1940s Hong Kong.

Originally, the film's country was identified as "China-USA" by the organizers of the Venice Film Festival. However, a few days later, the Venice Film Festival changed the film to "USA-China-Taiwan, China" on its official schedule.[13] When the film premiered at the event, Taiwan's Mainland Affairs Council protested the Venice event's use of "Taiwan, China" to identify films from the island and blamed China for the move.[14][15]

After the film's premiere, Taiwan submitted the film as its Best Foreign Film Oscar entry. However, the Oscars asked Taiwan to withdraw the film because some key crew members were not locals. Oscars spokeswoman Teni Melidonian said in an e-mail organizers refused to accept the film because "an insufficient number of Taiwanese participated in the production of the film," violating a rule that requires foreign countries to certify their locals "exercised artistic control" over their submission.

Defamation[edit]

On September 13, 2007, an elderly lady, Zheng Tianru, staged a press conference in Los Angeles, claiming that the movie was about real-life events that happened in World War II, and wrongfully portrayed her older sister, Zheng Pingru, as a promiscuous secret agent who seduced and eventually fell in love with the assassination target Ding Mocun (she alleges that the characters were renamed to Wang Jiazhi and Mr. Yee in the movie).[16] Taiwan's investigation bureau confirmed that Zheng Pingru failed to kill Ding Mocun because her gun jammed, rather than developing a romantic relationship with the assassin's target.[citation needed] Director Ang Lee maintains that Eileen Chang wrote the original short story as fiction.[17]

Critical reception[edit]

As of March 31, 2011, on the review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, 72% of critics gave the film positive reviews, the consensus said "Ang Lee's Lust, Caution is a tense, sensual and beautifully-shot espionage film".[18] On Metacritic, the film had an average score of 61 out of 100, based on 34 reviews.[19]

Jack Mathews of the New York Daily News named it the 5th best film of 2007.[20] Kenneth Turan of the Los Angeles Times named it the 6th best film of 2007.[20]

The Chinese press gave generally positive reviews. In analyzing how successful Lee's film was as an adaptation of Eileen Chang's short story, literary critic Leo Lee Ou-fan (李歐梵) wrote in Muse Magazine that he 'found [his] loyalties divided between Eileen Chang and Ang Lee. But after three viewings of the film, I have finally opted for Lee because deep down I believe in film magic which can sometimes displace textual fidelity.'[21] In an earlier issue of Muse however, film critic Perry Lam had criticized Lee's direction: 'in his eagerness to make the movie appealing to a mass audience, Lee seems guilty of sentimentalism.'[22] Sentimental or not, there is certainly a palpable trace of Lee's sympathy for Chang's personal love life, “It was hard for me to live in Eileen Chang’s world...There are days I hated her for it. It’s so sad, so tragic. But you realize there’s a shortage of love in her life: romantic love, family love.” He added, “This is the story of what killed love for her.”[23]

Anachronisms[edit]

It has been noted by critics (including Bryan Appleyard[24]) that the Hong Kong sequences in the film set in the late 1930s[25] include "London taxis" of two types (FX3, FX4) that were only manufactured onwards from 1948 and 1958 respectively.[26]

Box office[edit]

Lust, Caution was produced on a budget of approximately $15 million.[27]

In Hong Kong, where it played in its entirety, Lust, Caution grossed US$6,249,342 (approximately $48 million HKD) despite being saddled with a restrictive "Category III" rating. It was the territory's biggest-grossing Chinese language film of the year, and third biggest overall (behind only Spider-Man 3 and Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix).[28]

The film was also a huge success in China, despite playing only in a heavily edited version. It grossed US$17,109,185, making it the country's sixth highest-grossing film of 2007 and third highest-grossing domestic production.[29]

In North America, the NC-17 rating which Lust, Caution received is traditionally perceived as a box office "kiss-of-death". In its opening weekend in one U.S. theatre, it grossed $63,918.[27] Expanding to seventeen venues the next week, its per-screen average was $21,341, before cooling down to $4,639 at 125 screens.[30] Never playing at more than 143 theatres in its entire U.S. run, it eventually grossed $4,604,982.[30] As of August 15, 2008, it was the fifth highest-grossing NC-17 production in North America.[31] Focus Features was very satisfied with the United States release of this film.[32]

Worldwide, Lust, Caution grossed $67,091,915.[27]

Home media[edit]

In the United States, two DVD versions of this film were released: the original NC-17 version and the censored R-rated version.[33]

This film has generated more than $24 million from its DVD sales and rentals in the United States,[27][34] an impressive result for a film that only grossed $4.6 million in limited theatrical release in the United States.[27]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "LUST, CAUTION (18)". British Board of Film Classification. 2007-10-11. Retrieved 2012-12-02. 
  2. ^ a b Lust, Caution at Box Office Mojo
  3. ^ The awards of the Venice Film Festival on the Festival's site
  4. ^ Goldstein, Gregg (August 24, 2007). "Focus won't sweat NC-17 for 'Lust'". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved September 9, 2007. [dead link]
  5. ^ "媒體猛炒性愛 李安痛心" (in Chinese). Retrieved August 16, 2008. 
  6. ^ "Ang Lee celebrates golden success of "Lust, Caution"". CNN. December 21, 2007. 
  7. ^ "Lee film sweeps Taiwan 'Oscars'". BBC News. 8 December 2007. Retrieved 25 November 2012. 
  8. ^ Bowles, Scott. "'Lust, Caution': Not just a movie title in NC-17 debate", USA Today, March 13, 2008
  9. ^ "'Fang' Lee: cruel but true". The Age (Australia). January 11, 2008. 
  10. ^ http://www.nzherald.co.nz/entertainment/news/article.cfm?c_id=1501119&objectid=10488493
  11. ^ Lee admits 'political edit' of film
  12. ^ The notice reads: "18 U.S.C § 2257 records custodian – Joyce Hsieh, custodian of records, Mr. Yee Productions LLC, C/O Schreck Rose Dapello Adams & Hurwitz LLP, 1790 Broadway, New York, NY 10019. Date of publication: September 28, 2007.

    The performers in this motion picture who are depicted engaging in sexually explicit conduct, and the characters that they portray therein, were all over 18 years of age at the time of photography. The content is inappropriate for minors and appropriate care should be taken to ensure that it is not viewed by anyone under 18 years of age. The records required by 18 U.S.C § 2257 and associated regulations with respect to the motion picture on which this notice appears are kept by the custodian of the records at the office of the manufacturer above."

  13. ^ "64th Venice Film Festival – In Competition". Retrieved September 9, 2007. 
  14. ^ "Taiwan protests Chinese credit for Ang Lee's movie at Venice festival". Retrieved September 9, 2007. [dead link]
  15. ^ "Venice Film Fest faces faux pas over Taiwan". CBC News. August 28, 2007. Retrieved February 9, 2008. 
  16. ^ "色‧戒」影射鄭蘋如?鄭家人不滿" (in Chinese). Retrieved August 16, 2008. 
  17. ^ "湯唯情欲戲被指褻瀆烈士 <色戒>遭原型家人聲討" (in Chinese). Retrieved August 16, 2008. 
  18. ^ "Lust, Caution – Rotten Tomatoes". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved March 31, 2011. 
  19. ^ "Lust, Caution (2007): Reviews". Metacritic. Retrieved October 30, 2007. 
  20. ^ a b "Metacritic: 2007 Film Critic Top Ten Lists". Metacritic. Archived from the original on January 2, 2008. Retrieved January 8, 2008. 
  21. ^ Lee, Leo Ou-fan (November 2007). "Lust, Caution: Vision and revision". Muse Magazine (10): 96. 
  22. ^ Lam, Perry (October 2007). "Great expectations". Muse Magazine (9): 103. 
  23. ^ Lim, Dennis (August 26, 2007). "Love as an Illusion: Beautiful to See, Impossible to Hold". The New York Times. 
  24. ^ Appleyard, Bryan (January 21, 2008). "A Protocol Problem and the Lust Caution Taxi". Thought Experiments: The Blog. brianappleyard.com. Retrieved August 16, 2008. 
  25. ^ See Lust, Caution (clip) (WMV) (Motion picture). Focus Features. Retrieved August 16, 2008.  (5.2 MB)
  26. ^ "The FX series". LTI Vehicles. 2006. Retrieved August 16, 2008. 
  27. ^ a b c d e "Lust, Caution". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved December 5, 2010. 
  28. ^ "Hong Kong Yearly Box Office (2007)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved August 16, 2008. 
  29. ^ "China Yearly Box Office (2007)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved August 16, 2008. 
  30. ^ a b "Lust, Caution – Weekend Box Office". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved August 16, 2008. 
  31. ^ "Domestic Grosses by MPAA Rating – NC-17". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved August 16, 2008. 
  32. ^ Sperling, Nicole (March 19, 2008). "Ang Lee and James Schamus Get Frank". Entertainment Weekly. 
  33. ^ Foster, Dave (December 30, 2007). "Lust, Caution (R1) in February – Artwork Updated". DVD Times. Retrieved August 16, 2008. 
  34. ^ Hendrix, Grady (April 23, 2008). "Dirty DVD sales". Kaiju Shakedown blog. Variety Asia. Retrieved August 16, 2008. 

External links[edit]

Awards
Preceded by
After This Our Exile
Golden Horse Awards for Best Film
2007
Succeeded by
The Warlords
Preceded by
Riding Alone for Thousands of Miles
Hong Kong Film Awards for Best Asian Film
2007
Succeeded by
Assembly