Borderlands (Zev Berman, 2007): 6.5/10

The Magic Flute (Ingmar Bergman, 1975): 7/10

La Guerre Est Finie (Alain Resnais, 1966): 7/10

Speed Racer (The Wachowski Brothers, 2008): 8/10

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Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Lust, Caution (Ang Lee, 2007)

On the surface, Lust, Caution is more of a Wong Kar Wai film than anything I would have expected from Ang Lee. The story takes place in Hong Kong and Japanese-occupied Shanghai in the days of World War II. Wang (Wei Tang, who was a model before Lee cast her and is nuanced and wonderful in the role - her first ever!) is a young student in Hong Kong who gets drawn into a Chinese nationalist theater group. The group soon moves from theater to political machinations, and they decide to act their way into the life of a bigwig in the Chinese government, Mr. Yee (Tony Leung). Wang acts as Mei Tai Tai, young wife of an import-exporter (who is never seen by Mr. Yee), and befriends Mrs. Yee and beguiles Mr. Yee. But something happens, and the Yees are called back to China. Wang's mission is over. Flash forward three years to Shanghai, and her radical cohorts have found her again. Mr. Yee is back as well, and Mei Tai Tai is reborn, and involves herself in the lives of the Yees again.

Mei Tai Tai, on the surface, is manner and composed, as Wong Kar Wai films often are. The period clothing, the sets, the way people acted with such restraint are all highly reminiscent of films like 2046 and In the Mood for Love. But just when I thought Lee had restrained himself, there's a reason this movie is rated NC-17. The sex scenes between Leung and Tang are brutal and hard to watch at first, but morph into something animalistic and loving, in a perverse sense. If Wang is supposed to be simply using Mr. Yee in order to get access and kill him, something definitely happens along the way.

The difficult relationship between Yee and Wang is the centerpiece of the film, and is brilliantly nuanced and surprising. At one point, Wang begs her revolutionary boss to come in a kill Yee because he is worming his way into her heart. The relationship between power, sex, and politics is displayed in all its forms. Compare this film with the restrained, painful sexuality of Brokeback Mountain, and it's an interesting double feature to the duality and complicated nature of human desire. The two leads are brilliant, and the photography of the film really brings you back to the 1940s. Everything, and nothing, is drama in this film. Really one of the year's best.


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