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Lust actually

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PostPosted: Wed Feb 27, 2013 8:37 pm    Post subject: Lust actually Reply with quote

Title: Lust actually

Source: The Independent (London, England). (Dec. 27, 2007): News: p8.
Document Type: Article

Full Text: COPYRIGHT 2007 Independent Print Ltd.

Full Text:

Tony Leung is one of Asia's biggest and best-loved stars. He is also one of its most versatile. In his acclaimed body of work with the mercurial film-maker Wong Kar-wai, he is as at home in the martial-arts world of Ashes of Time as in the Sixties Hong Kong of their international breakthrough, the dreamily romantic In the Mood for Love.

Able to make silences speak volumes with just his melancholy eyes, Leung became the ideal avatar of Wong's impressionistic style. Now teamed with the Oscar-winning Taiwanese director Ang Lee, the actor gives one of his strongest performances in Lust, Caution, subverting the good-guy image that he cultivated with Kar-wai. However, it is probably not Leung's acting masterclass that has been pulling in the crowds in Asia. More than likely, it is the film's seven minutes of graphic sex (although not in mainland China, where the scenes have been excised by the censor), the fleshy frankness of which has been generating shock and surprise ever since Lust, Caution's world premiere at the Venice Film Festival in September.

This was Leung's first opportunity to view the finished film. "I think I did a great job," he said afterwards, apparently unfazed by the gobsmacked reactions on the Lido. "When I saw it the first time, I tried to focus on myself to see how I did as that character. The second time I watched it, I saw the whole movie, and I think it's great." Did he expect his fans back home to be as tolerant? "I'm curious about how they'll respond," he admits. "I think they expect me to change. They expect me to give them something different in every movie."

This may well be so. I am just not sure that the 45-year-old star appearing naked in highly charged scenes of explicit - though not pornographic - sex is the kind of "different" anyone had in mind.

Based on a short story by the respected Chinese author Eileen Chang, Lust, Caution offers a handsomely presented tale of patriotism, espionage, love, betrayal and revenge, set during the Japanese occupation of Shanghai in the Second World War. Newcomer Tang Wei is a star-in-the-making as Wong Chia Chi, an idealistic student who becomes the lynchpin in a plot by radicals to assassinate Leung's traitorous secret-service chief, Mr Yee. As the honeytrap draws the pair closer together, brutal rape gives way to tenderness and love, creating a conflict between will and duty.

When I meet Leung to discuss the film, it appears that even he was astonished by how far Lee wanted to go with the sex. Speaking softly, in Chinese-accented English, he says that the director was coy when they first met. "He didn't mention much at all," Leung says, laughing. "I was quite curious about why he always said, 'There's a love scene.' I said, 'How come you always emphasise this love scene? I do a lot of movies that have love scenes.' Ang said, 'There's a love scene.' I said, 'OK, love scenes are fine for me.' "After three months, when we had to do some rehearsals before shooting, he told me that we were going to do love scenes this way." Leaving little to the imagination, that is. "I said, 'This way? Er, OK. Let's try'." The surprise is still evident in his voice.

Lee says that he found the scenes "extremely painful" to shoot because of the trust he commanded from the actors. Leung is more relaxed, however. "Doing love scenes is always difficult without a strong emotional background. But I think the love scenes in this movie are not just trying to show the bodies of the actors, they're trying to reflect the inner accents of the characters. So it's easier that way." Asked if he did anything to help the less experienced Wei get through them, Leung's reply seems cold. "I didn't have time to help her. I was just trying to help myself."

The hardest aspect of Lust, Caution for him, though, was trying to strip away his usual persona to find something darker and more masculine. Under Lee's guidance, Leung watched films starring Marlon Brando, Richard Burton and Humphrey Bogart, and pored over history books about the Japanese occupation and biographies of secret agents. "I learnt how they functioned and how they worked; I needed to see a lot of documentaries to see how they talked, their gestures, and how they walked.

"Ang wanted me to be a different Tony Leung because the audience is familiar with what I've done before, so I had to change everything. It was very tough. Ang taught me to walk like his father. So my character actually walks like his father."

Leung is well known for immersing himself in his roles. He will take a script home and read it until he has explored every nuance. He does not just act a character, he lives it. Inhabiting Yee's darkness for months on end was difficult, the actor admits. "It was exhausting. Sometimes you just lost your appetite. You're always down. You're always very unhappy. You carry this character. It's very tough. But this is a new experience for me, and I think I had a breakthrough in my career."

Acting has always been more than just a job to Leung. When he entered acting training at the Chinese television channel TVB, aged 19, following a spell selling household appliances, he was painfully shy and reserved. As a child, he had watched his parents bicker constantly, and between the ages of three and six, his father - a captain at a nightclub - had left home three times, finally for good. "Suddenly, one day, he'd just leave and then maybe he'd come back six months later without telling you why, and then he'd disappear again after a year," Leung recalls. "It's very difficult to understand when you're three or five years old, so you just don't know how to handle it." He never met his father again. "He passed away a few years ago. I know he tried to see me, but my mother didn't want me to see him."

No one inthe family talked about what was happening, he says. "In the Sixties, it wasn't that common for people to divorce, so I felt very bad. My mother didn't know how to tell us. And she needed to work because we needed money to live." Leung withdrew into himself. "I shut down all my emotions, I wasn't talkative, I didn't know how to communicate; I just tried to separate myself from people."

Acting provided an outlet for his bottled-up emotions. "I could cry behind a character, I could shout behind a character, and that kind of relief was fun." Acting became an addiction, something he needed. Gradually, though, as he has found other ways of expressing himself, the therapeutic element became less important. "I've enjoyed it more and more in recent years," he says, "because it's more than just using it as an outlet for my emotions or what I suffer. I enjoy doing movies now. That's the only thing I'm really concerned about now, working with really great film-makers, great partners, great actors. It's fun. It's exciting."

It appears he can't get enough of that excitement. Instead of taking a break after Lust, Caution, he moved straight on to Red Cliff, John Woo's historical epic set during the Hang Dynasty, which is being touted as the most expensive film ever produced in China. "It's very tough because it's a war movie and there are lots of people every day," says Leung. "You need an hour for a take because we have a lot of costumes to wear. The weather is very hot and we wear winter costumes, because the war happens in wintertime, and we have to wear armour weighing 20lb."

Already a huge star in Asia, it is surely only a matter of time before the Hong Kong-based actor makes his English-language debut in the West. But despite offers from Hollywood, Leung says he is not in any hurry to head to America. He would like to make at least one film there, but is certainly not looking to increase his fame. "I don't have any privacy anymore and I hate that. And besides work, Ijust want to be an ordinary person, not to be recognised, not to look like a monkey on the street, with everyone staring at you."

Leung reveals that he and Kar-wai are likely to reunite in 2008 for a project about Bruce Lee's kung-fu master. "We planned to do it five years ago, but I felt quite bored with him," he admits. "We'd been working together for over 10 years, so we needed a break."

It will be interesting to see what emerges. Kar-wai's films are notorious for beginning as one thing and ending up as another. "Maybe it's not a kung-fu movie at all," says Leung, laughing. "Maybe it's another movie about walking on the streets and smoking cigarettes. No more kung fu."

'Lust, Caution' opens on 4 January

Source Citation (MLA 7th Edition)
"Lust actually." Independent [London, England] 27 Dec. 2007: 8. Infotrac Newsstand. Web. 27 Feb. 2013.

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PostPosted: Sat Mar 02, 2013 12:01 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Sex 'pivotal' to Lust, says Lee

By Neil Smith

Entertainment reporter, BBC News

Last Updated: Wednesday, 2 January 2008, 08:36 GMT

Director Ang Lee has said he would rather his sexually explicit film Lust, Caution lost money than be shown in a "compromised" form.

The film - a 1940s espionage thriller set in Shanghai during the Japanese occupation - received a restrictive NC-17 rating when it opened in the US last September.

The period drama, which won the Golden Lion award at the 2007 Venice Film Festival, will be released in the UK on 4 January with an 18 certificate.

While an 18 certificate is roughly equivalent to an American NC-17, the US rating is generally considered to affect a film's ability to attract a big American audience.

The film was shown unedited in Hong Kong and Taiwan, but had its sex scenes excised by authorities in China.

"When you cut those scenes, you still get the story and can understand it completely," the 53-year-old told the BBC News website.

"But if I'm allowed to include them, I'd rather lose money than show a lesser version."


The "pivotal" sex scenes between actors Tony Leung and Tang Wei were shot over 11 days on a closed set, with only the main camera and sound personnel present.

"I just did what I thought was best for the movie and what I felt was necessary," said Lee.

"I didn't think about the scary part - how it would look and what kind of trouble I would get myself into," he continued.

"But it turned out people have reacted a lot more positively than I expected."

Based on a short story by the late Chinese author Eileen Chang, Lust, Caution - Se, Jie in Mandarin - tells of a group of actors who plot to assassinate an enemy collaborator.

The film's young heroine, however, finds her mission imperilled by her powerful attraction to the man she has been ordered to seduce.

Speaking at the London Film Festival last October, the Taiwanese director explained why he chose to follow his 2005 drama Brokeback Mountain with a Chinese-language film.

Martial arts

"If I didn't make it, I don't think anybody could have," he said. "I got a lot of support after winning the Oscar [for Brokeback Mountain], so I felt the time was right.

"In 10 years this history will be gone with the wind. Anybody who lived through it will have passed away."

Since making his English-language debut with Jane Austen adaptation Sense and Sensibility in 1995, Lee has made only one other movie in his native tongue.

That was Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon - a martial arts epic that went on to win the 2001 Oscar for best foreign language film.

"I don't have a specific plan about how many Chinese movies I do," he said.

"But I'm glad after doing two English language films [Brokeback and 2003's Hulk] I got to go back to China."

Lee returned knowing he would need to adopt a more "hands-on" role than would normally be the case in Hollywood.


"Chinese film for me is exhausting," he admitted. "It's a smaller industry, so I had to do a lot of the pushing personally."

Focus Features, the specialty films unit of Universal Pictures, will no doubt be hoping Lust, Caution will replicate some of Brokeback's award-winning success.

Its hopes of winning the 2008 foreign language film Oscar, however, were scuppered when it was rejected by the Academy.

Too few of the film's key crew members hailed from Taiwan for it to be eligible, the selection committee ruled.

Lee admits to being baffled by the panel's decision, saying the rejection "came as a surprise".

"I think it's a stern regulation, and an old-fashioned way of thinking," he said.

"Films are made by a lot of people, and whoever is best for the job gets hired.

"It seems a little dated to me, as an international film-maker."

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PostPosted: Sat Mar 02, 2013 12:03 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Ang Lee leads Golden Horse race

Last Updated: Monday, 29 October 2007, 11:44 GMT

Ang Lee's spy thriller Lust, Caution leads the nominations for the Chinese language Golden Horse Awards.

The film has picked up 11 nominations which include best film, best actor and actress. Lee is up for best director and Taiwanese filmmaker of the year.

It had already been ruled out of the Hong Kong Film Awards and the Oscars because the production team did not meet certain rules in order to enter.

The movie recently won the top Golden Lion prize at the Venice Film Festival.

The film follows a Chinese woman in Japanese-occupied Shanghai during World War II, who finds herself in the centre of a plot to seduce and kill a married enemy collaborator.

Lee previously won the best director Oscar for Brokeback Mountain in 2006.

Chinese director Wang Quanan's film, Tuya's Marriage, which won the Golden Bear award at the Berlin Film Festival earlier this year, won has been nominated for four awards.

It will go up against Taiwanese director Niu Chen-zer's political satire What on Earth Have I Done Wrong?!, Zhang Yang's Getting Home and Tony Ayres' The Home Song Stories.
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PostPosted: Sat Mar 02, 2013 12:05 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Ang Lee film 'censored for China'

Last Updated: Monday, 3 September 2007, 08:15 GMT 09:15 UK

Film director Ang Lee's Venice Film Festival contender Lust, Caution will be cut for audiences in China, according to a report.

The Taiwanese film-maker will remove sex scenes from the thriller ahead of its release there, says Screen Daily.

The movie has already been given a restrictive NC-17 rating in the US, where it hits cinemas later this month.

Lee is hoping to scoop the prestigious Golden Lion at Venice, two years after winning with Brokeback Mountain.

'Not pornography'

Critics at the festival, where Lust, Caution premiered last week, said the film is "too cautious" and "risks leaving audiences cold".

It has a gradual release in the US and is expected to make only modest box office returns.

Ang Lee

Lee said that the film is "not pornography", but admitted it is "unsuitable for children".

He added that the NC-17 rating was a "respectable category" and hoped it would not discourage audiences.

The category bars under-17s from seeing the film.

The film, based on a novella by Eileen Chang, follows a Chinese woman in Japanese-occupied Shanghai during World War II, who finds herself in the centre of a plot to seduce and kill a married enemy collaborator.

It caused controversy ahead of its Venice debut when it was billed as a film from Taiwan, China in the festival programme - implying that the island state is part of the mainland.

"I think it is more important to show the movie. I leave it to the politicians and the festival," Lee reporters.
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PostPosted: Sat Mar 02, 2013 12:07 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Adult rating for Ang Lee war film

Last Updated: Friday, 24 August 2007, 14:55 GMT 15:55 UK

The war drama is set in Shanghai during World War II

The latest film from Brokeback Mountain director Ang Lee - Lust, Caution - has been given an NC-17 rating in the US.

The rarely awarded rating means the Chinese-language war film cannot be seen by anyone under the age of 17.

It is thought the ruling by the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) was made because of graphic sex scenes, according to the Hollywood Reporter.

Some US cinemas refuse to show films with an NC-17 rating, thereby reducing the number of potential viewers.

However, distributor Focus Features said it would not contest the ruling.

"When we screened the final cut of this film, we knew we weren't going to change a frame," said Focus Features' James Schamus, who co-wrote the screenplay.

"As with so many of his previous films, Oscar-winning director Ang Lee has crafted a masterpiece about and for grown-ups," added Schamus, who worked with with Lee on Brokeback Mountain.

Venice premiere

The film follows a Chinese woman in Japanese-occupied Shanghai during World War II who finds herself in the centre of a plot to seduce and kill a married enemy collaborator.

It will receive its world premiere at the Venice film festival and goes on release in the US at the end of September.

It opens in the UK on 4 January.

Lee's award-winning film Brokeback Mountain received an R-rating, which means anyone under 17 can see the film but only if accompanied by an adult.

Recent films with NC-17 ratings include Pedro Almodovar's Bad Education and Bernardo Bertolucci's The Dreamers.
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PostPosted: Sat Mar 02, 2013 12:09 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Lee aims at second Venice victory

Last Updated: Friday, 31 August 2007, 10:39 GMT 11:39 UK

Acclaimed director Ang Lee has unveiled his latest movie, Lust, Caution, at the Venice Film Festival.

The Taiwanese film-maker is hoping to replicate the success he had with Brokeback Mountain, which scooped the festival's top prize two years ago.

Lust, Caution, a wartime thriller, has been given a restrictive NC-17 rating in the US for its explicit sex scenes.

But critics in Venice say the film is "too cautious" and "risks leaving audiences cold".

Trade paper Variety said the Chinese-language film "lacks the deep-churning emotional currents that drove Lee's Brokeback Mountain and his best other works".

It predicted modest box office returns for the film when it opens in the US at the end of September.

Further premieres follow at the Italian festival on Friday, including George Clooney's forthcoming thriller, Michael Clayton.

In it, Clooney play the "fixer" for a New York law firm, who is tasked with covering up corporate dirty work.

Director Brian De Palma's hard-hitting Iraq drama, Redacted, will also receive its world premiere.

It tells the true story of a group of US soldiers who raped and murdered of a 14-year-old Iraqi girl in Mahmudiya last year.

Shown through the imaginary video lens of one of the soldiers involved in the raid on the girl's home, the dramatisation is interlaced with actual news clips, documentary footage and stills from the war.

"The true story of the Iraq war has been redacted from the mainstream corporate media," said De Palma, who is best known for movies like Carrie, Scarface and The Untouchables.

"If we are going to cause such disorder, then we must face the horrendous images that are the consequences of these events."

While Clooney and De Palma are both expected to arrive in Venice to promote their films, fellow Hollywood star Scarlett Johansson has cancelled her appearance.

The Lost In Translation actress had been expected in Venice for the screening of her new film The Nanny Diaries, but she pulled out at the last minute, citing work commitments in the US.

'Not pornography'

Lee's Lust, Caution is based on a novella by the famed Chinese writer Eileen Chang.

It follows a Chinese woman in Japanese-occupied Shanghai during World War II, who finds herself in the centre of a plot to seduce and kill a married enemy collaborator.

The cast includes newcomer Tang Wei and Tony Leung, one of China's biggest stars, as well as pop star Leehom Wang.

On arrival in Venice, Lee defended the film's sex scenes and said he hoped the NC-17 rating would not discourage audiences.

"We hope to send the message in the US that NC-17 is a respectable category," he said.

"It's not pornography. It's just unsuitable for children."

Lee also addressed an outcry over the film's listing in the festival programme - which described it as originating from Taiwan, China.

He called the incident, which has angered Taiwanese authorities, "unfortunate", but said he was at a loss to explain the error.

"If you can find out what's going on, please let me know," he told reporters.

China and Taiwan set up separate governments in 1949, but Beijing still considers Taiwan as part of its territory.
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PostPosted: Sat Mar 02, 2013 12:37 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Infernal Affair

By Peter Ritter Thursday, Oct. 04, 2007

Time Magazine

Read more:,9171,1668225,00.html#ixzz2MMyk4Bkk

First, let's talk about the sex. There's a lot of it in Ang Lee's new film, Lust, Caution: sweaty, acrobatic coupling that is, by turns, brutish and tender. And the camera doesn't shy away from any panting detail. Explicit even by today's standards, the movie works hard to earn the adults-only NC-17 rating it has been given in the U.S. Shooting the scenes was so exhausting that Lee and his cast could only work half-days. On one occasion, lead actress Tang Wei fainted.

But Lee isn't being provocative merely for the sake of it. If the lovemaking in the director's Oscar-winning Brokeback Mountain represented a kind of prelapsarian idyll — a state of innocence that can never be recaptured — here the physical act takes his characters to a darker and more frightening place. "I think sexuality is worth exploring because it's the ultimate performance," says Lee, who is hanging out in a luxury hotel suite a few hours before the film's red-carpet Hong Kong premiere on Sept. 22. "The chemistry can be quite complicated. Sex is very much a performance. But that's the question: Performance or reality?"

Soft-spoken and pacific, Lee is as well known in Hollywood for his modesty as he is for his protean talent. It's hard to square volcanic passions, after all, with a man who once told an interviewer that one of his favorite restaurants was KFC. Lee's movies, too, often revolve around the repression of overwhelming emotion. In his wuxia epic, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, swords and fists became stand-ins for everything the martial characters couldn't say. Brokeback Mountain's cowboys suffered for love they could not acknowledge. Even Lee's Hulk was an exploration of suppressed rage, its green marauder an embodiment of the unleashed id. "I lead a very mundane, normal life," says the 53-year-old director. "I'm happily married. I'm a reasonable person. But in making a movie, I like to touch the unknown. Sometimes, you get to this scary truth about your own subconscious existence."

With Lust, Caution Lee is charting new territory, trading Brokeback's Ansel Adams vistas for oppressive World War II Shanghai. But Lust, Caution shares with that film a mournful, elegiac tone. "It's this idea of repressed or impossible love," Lee says. "I find that yearning attractive. Somehow, it's my observation of the grand illusion of love: you can never acquire it, or attain it, or describe it. So the more difficult or elusive it is — or in this case, the more twisted — that becomes very attractive to me in making a movie."

Lust, Caution turns on a particularly dangerous liaison. Based on a novella by Chinese writer Eileen Chang, it's the story of a college student, played by Chinese TV actress Tang, who is recruited by a patriotic theater troupe planning to assassinate a cold-blooded interrogator for the occupying Japanese (played by Hong Kong star Tony Leung). To insinuate herself into his bourgeois world, and to ultimately seduce him, she transforms herself from a gawky ingenue into a ruby-lipped Mata Hari. She's initially playing a role. But her performance shades into real feeling, and their affair begins to blur the difference between seducer and seduced, becoming a mirror of the war outside: the bedroom is their battleground. "Love is the ultimate occupation," Lee says. "It's basically what the movie is about: she has to do this performance to withstand his scrutiny as an interrogator. Through which they have a taste of love, and it's very scary to them."

For Lee, that theme — the possibility of dramatic transformation through artifice — struck a personal chord. At 18, he entered the Art Academy of Taiwan as an acting student, and found himself changed from a shy, uncertain teen into a star. Only after moving to the U.S. in 1978 did he switch to directing. His English, he realized, wasn't good enough for him to succeed in America as an actor.

After directing a triptych of art-house films that dealt with the strain between traditional Chinese families and their modern children, Lee began working with a larger palette, jumping from genre to genre without a misstep. What other filmmaker has adapted both Jane Austen and a comic book, or followed a kung-fu film with a movie about gay cowboys? In Lust, Caution, Lee is trying out yet another, marrying an old-fashioned noir spy thriller เ la Hitchcock's Notorious with a serious-minded inquiry into the nature of desire.

Beneath its lacquered surfaces and tasteful period trappings, Lust, Caution is a movie about the ineffable mystery of sex — its power to debase, as well as to sanctify. In the film, the lovers' first encounter is violent, verging on rape; later, when they twist into a fleshy pretzel, their embrace becomes a shelter from the dangerous outside world. The censors who have branded Lee's film as art-house erotica have got it all wrong. Lust, Caution isn't an adult movie — just a grown-up one.

Read more:,9171,1668225,00.html#ixzz2MMyc1mFR

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PostPosted: Sat Mar 02, 2013 12:54 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

When Sex Doesn't Sell

By Richard Corliss Thursday, Oct. 04, 2007

Time Magazine,9171,1668473,00.html

The film is gliding along, well into its second hour of stately intrigue, as a young woman in Japanese-occupied China woos a Chinese collaborator, hoping to get close enough to kill him. Then the man (Hong Kong star Tony Leung Chiu-wai) takes the woman (newcomer Tang Wei) to bed, and Ang Lee's Lust, Caution becomes a different movie. In three startling sex scenes, the two actors mime first a brutal seduction, then a sadomasochistic pas de deux, then the flexing of the woman's wiles until she has achieved erotic control of her prey.

Two years ago, Lee won a Best Director Oscar for Brokeback Mountain, a less explicit but no less passionate story of two gay cowboys. He took that cachet and banked it on a Mandarin-language drama that has earned the Motion Picture Association's NC-17 rating (no children under 17). That rating will keep Lust, Caution out of many cinemas because lots of theater owners won't show films with a rating harder than R. Nor, if current standards hold, will the dvd be available at Wal-Mart or Blockbuster. But the $83 million theatrical take of Brokeback makes some in the film community hope that Lee's new movie will cue a box-office breakthrough for adults-only dramas.

Since 1968, when the ratings system was introduced, its classifications--G for general audiences, PG for parental guidance, PG-13 for sterner stuff kids could still see and R, restricting children's attendance except with an adult--have adapted to accommodate the evolving tastes of moviegoers. The G now goes to few films because parents figure a PG (say, Shrek the Third) is safe. The R promises hot stuff for fanboys, which has translated into hits in several genres: violent action (300), raunchy humor (Superbad) and lurid horror (the Saw franchise). PG-13 has become the money rating. It's the one given to mainstream action movies and comedies, and it accounts for seven of this year's 10 top hits. As the ratings code has gotten more liberal, so has the audience's fondness for movies with stricter ratings.

What hasn't changed is the NC-17. Though the designation got a makeover in 1990--it used to be X--it still has the old, unfair tinge of porn. The big studios avoid it. Mostly it goes to sexually charged fare from world-class directors, like Pedro Almod๓var's Bad Education ($5.2 million domestic) and Bernardo Bertolucci's The Dreamers ($2.5 million). The one big, glitzy NC-17 movie, the 1995 Vegas-stripper epic Showgirls, cost $45 million to produce and earned just $20 million. That modest sum is the highest take ever for an NC-17.

Will the lure of forbidden fruit get the mass audience into a Chinese political drama? Lee isn't sure that people's desire to see the scenes that garnered the NC-17 rating will help. "That's a plus," he told TIME, "but the plus is 10 points, and the minus is 80 points."

The plus should be that audiences get to see mature films dealing with the joy and pain, the drama and power plays in the act of love. But those films aren't seen--worse, they aren't made--because for all the naughty words and bloody corpses in today's movies, Hollywood is a timid place, at once prurient and puritanical. It's afraid of films that show strong, subtle passions between men and women. If Lust, Caution becomes a hit--a long shot, given its 2 1/2 hr. running time and lack of marquee names--it would be bucking both the NC-17 stigma and the current aversion to serious, old-fashioned screen romance.

When it comes to sex, Hollywood movies are no lust, all caution.

Read more:,9171,1668473,00.html#ixzz2MN3JShPR
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PostPosted: Sat Mar 02, 2013 12:59 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Ang Lee and the power of performance

Lee explains the very personal motivations behind "Lust, Caution," the tale of a young woman whose life is transformed, dangerously and thrillingly, by performance.

By Moira Macdonald, Seattle Times movie critic

Many years ago, long before Ang Lee became the acclaimed maker of films like "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" and "Brokeback Mountain," he was an 18-year-old kid falling in love with the art of acting. And those first tentative moments, on a student stage in Taiwan, are what directly led to his newest film: "Lust, Caution," set in 1940s occupied Shanghai, opening Friday at the Egyptian.

Lee discussed his inspirations for the movie in recent conversations at the Toronto International Film Festival and in Seattle, where he was honored at a Seattle International Film Festival tribute on Sunday. Based on a short story by Eileen Chang, "Lust, Caution" is the tale of a young woman whose life is transformed, dangerously and thrillingly, by performance. A student actor, she joins a group of radical students bent on assassinating a powerful political figure and changes her identity to infiltrate his world. Early in the film, we see her after her first stage performance, outside on a rainy night; she's breathless and dazzled by the new art she's mastering.

"I'm like that girl, basically," Lee said, in his soft voice. "She's awakening. She feels the power." He remembered his own walk in the night, in the drizzling rain, after a first performance. "There's something funny about acting — you become empowered," he said. He was "a repressed kid, never allowed to touch art, only academic work. I flunked the college examinations, and I went to art school to prepare for the next year. By chance, I was on stage. I realized the rest of my life. So, when I read that in the short story, I decided to do it."

Though Lee quickly learned, as a young adult, that he'd rather direct movies than act on stage (after moving to the U.S. in his 20s, he studied film production at New York University), his love for acting echoes through his work — Heath Ledger's previously unseen, powerful subtlety in "Brokeback Mountain"; Kate Winslet's exuberance bursting from the screen in "Sense and Sensibility." "I'm still zealous about performing art, except that I don't do it with my own body," he said. "I have to tear actors apart so they do it for me."

He does this through meticulous research, preparing for months before first meeting with actors. (One exception: "Sense and Sensibility," a work-for-hire project for which he was brought on fairly late in the process, still speaking little English. "It was very scary!" he remembered. "I was like 30 years behind everyone.") He gives the actors an "initial pitch," then rehearses to see what the actors give back. "The beginning of a rehearsal is almost like improvisation," he said. "I see what they give me and then I take over, take control."

For "Lust, Caution," his two leading actors came with very different backgrounds and required different kinds of direction. To play Mr. Yee, the subject of the planned assassination, Lee chose Tony Leung Chiu-wai, a veteran of Asian cinema perhaps best known to Western audiences for his love-struck work in "In the Mood for Love." Accustomed to playing the hero, he took on a much darker role.

"With Tony, you know he's going to go through a sophisticated process, so with him you should be more suggestive. I don't give him much information; he will digest himself, do something of his own."

In the role of the young actress turned spy, Tang Wei makes her feature-film debut. Lee's casting team looked at "over 10,000" young actresses before choosing her.

"When I met her, I just believed such a story would happen to someone like her," Lee said. "She feels to me like a fish out of water; she belonged to that era. Also, I see myself as the girl, and I very much identified with her." With Tang Wei, Lee gave advice more directly. "She believes in you when you pitch her an idea ... like a child actor, simple and very direct."

Lee, who tends to alternate English-language projects with Asian films, said he has a different process depending on what language he's working in. "English [-speaking] actors, they seem to have more ideas, it's part of the culture," he said. "When I speak in Chinese, I am more in command. I talk a lot, very demanding. [Chinese-speaking actors] have a more submissive kind of attitude to the director, that's just the culture."

The winner of the Golden Lion at the Venice International Film Festival, "Lust, Caution" recently had its Asian premiere in Taiwan, with Lee in attendance. "It was a very, very special experience in my life," he said. "I was so nervous that day. I'm something of a golden boy there, so emotionally I'm all attached, especially for something like this, a very personal film."

The film also opened in New York this past weekend, setting a quick box-office record for foreign-language films in exclusive runs.

Though he says making this film exhausted him (noting that recreating '40s Shanghai, mostly through sets, is much harder than Jane Austen's England), he's touched by the audience responses, seeing in them a trace of his own first thrill in connecting with an audience, long ago. And he looks forward to his next project, whatever it may be, keeping in touch with his first love. "As far as I'm concerned, I perform with cameras," he said. "I always see myself as performing."

Moira Macdonald: 206-464-2725 or
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PostPosted: Wed Oct 30, 2013 7:08 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Just watched Lust Caution again. I have to say it's a difficult movie to watch, with such cruelty, love denied, and feelings suppressed at a time of war.

I can't help but marvel at Ang Lee's masterful direction. Everything has a meaning, a slight movement of the hand, who wins at what time during the mahjong game. Amazing. Shocked

I remember a poignant scene when Chia Chi sings to Mr. Yip, he looked so fearful that he's falling in love with the girl. He brushes his hand over his face is if to wipe out the feelings, to no avail.

So romantic, but so painful tragic. Crying or Very sad
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