Lust, Caution is a great festival film; it's lush and long and loaded. It's also a bad festival film; I want to go back to it and think about it more, as if it were too delicate or intricate to be understood with the snap judgments and quick appraisals a festival can make you turn to at first resort. Like director Ang Lee's prior film, Brokeback Mountain, Lust, Caution takes a brisk, brief short story (Se, Jei by Eileen Chang) and makes it fill the screen, with plenty of room for visual rapture and strong performances -- and some space for doubts and questions to seep in, with a distant whisper of controversy about sex (for the R-rated Brokeback, over gay themes and characters; for the NC-17-rated Lust, over explicit straight sex) at the edge of hearing.

In wartime Shanghai, Mrs. Mak (Tang Wei) enters a parlor and travels to another world. She plays Mah-Jong with idle, wealthy women (who live in constant danger, in the middle of squalor) and slowly, carefully, carries out the steps in a plan to meet her lover, Mr. Yee (Tony Leung) -- husband to Mrs. Yee (Joan Chen), collaborator in service to the occupying Japanese, torturer. But Mrs. Mak's actions don't speak in the warm close whispers of a lover, but rather in the brittle conspiratorial tones of a criminal. ...

Because she is not Mrs. Mak; she is Wong Chia Chi, and she has been on a four-year journey to meet with Mr. Yee and be his lover. Until some later point, when he can be killed. Lust, Caution revolves around a plot, like a thriller, and we try to read it like that; but it also revolves around character and nature, like a drama, and we see it through that perspective. The movie -- and the audience -- jumps from intimate drama to glossy thrills.
categories Reviews, Cinematical