Lust, Caution (Se jie)

Tony Leung, Tang Wei, Joan Chen, Wang Lee Hom

Directed by Ang Lee
Rolling Stone: star rating
5 3.5
Community: star rating
5 3.5 0
October 4, 2007

Ang Lee doesn't direct movies according to fashion or the dictates of short attention spans. So leave it to the Taiwanese Oscar winner for Brokeback Mountain and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon to craft a Chinese-language film version of Eileen Chang's iconic short story and let it play out for 158 minutes. No matter. A whole world unfolds in those minutes, a fully realized world of Japanese-occupied Shanghai during World War II, of espionage and carnal power games. The film ts in 1938, when Wong Chia-Chi (Tang Wei), a student and aspiring actress, is recruited by the charismatic Kuang Yu Min (pop Wang Leehom) to act her most demanding role: seducer of Mr. Yee (Tony Leung). He's a Japanese collaborator these Chinese patriots want dead. It culminates in 1942, at a jewelry shop, where the once plain Wong Chia-Chi — now the epitome of fatal allure — is about to fulfill her mission. In between, Lee reveals a deft design of politics and betrayal that finds a perfect parallel in the seemingly frivolous mah-jongg games Mrs. Yee (canny Joan Chen never misses a trick) plays with her married lady friends, including her romantic rival. There are no wasted motions. Exquisite beauty and barbarous intent are all caught in the lens of the great cinematographer Rodrigo Prieto. Lee, working with an intricate script by Wang Hui Ling and James Schamus, keeps us constantly off balance. Much has been made of the NC-17 sex scenes. For the reliably idiotic ratings board, it all comes down to pubic hair and pelvic thrusts. For Lee, it goes deeper, into areas of control. Yee approaches sex with the sadistic relish he'd use to torture a suspect, while Wong Chia-Chi acts the role of subservient vessel. When they both drop the masks and yield to grander passions, the effect is devastating. The actors deserve the highest praise. Leung goes places he's never been before as an actor. And newcomer Tang Wei gives a performance that will be talked about for years. Lee is a true master, and his potently erotic and suspenseful Lust, Caution casts a spell you won't want to break.

Movie Review Main Next


Community Guidelines »
loading comments

loading comments...


Sort by:
    Read More

    Movie Reviews

    More Reviews »
    Around the Web
    Powered By ZergNet
    Daily Newsletter

    Get the latest RS news in your inbox.

    Sign up to receive the Rolling Stone newsletter and special offers from RS and its
    marketing partners.


    We may use your e-mail address to send you the newsletter and offers that may interest you, on behalf of Rolling Stone and its partners. For more information please read our Privacy Policy.

    Song Stories

    “Try a Little Tenderness”

    Otis Redding | 1966

    This pop standard had been previously recorded by dozens of artists, including by Bing Crosby 33 years before Otis Redding, who usually wrote his own songs, cut it. It was actually Sam Cooke’s 1964 take, which Redding’s manager played for Otis, that inspired the initially reluctant singer to take on the song. Isaac Hayes, then working as Stax Records’ in-house producer, handled the arrangement, and Booker T. and the MG’s were the backing band. Redding’s soulful version begins quite slowly and tenderly itself before mounting into a rousing, almost religious “You’ve gotta hold her, squeeze her …” climax. “I did that damn song you told me to do,” Redding told his manager. “It’s a brand new song now.”

    More Song Stories entries »