Bopping with Niall JP O'Leary

Niall O'Leary insists on sharing his hare-brained notions and hysterical emotions. Personal obsessions with cinema, literature, food and alcohol feature regularly.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Lust, Caution

'Lust, Caution' is apparently based on a short story. After two and a half hours, you have to wonder what got gained in translation.
A war-time story set in Japanese-occupied China, it tells of a young actress roped into a naive plot to assassinate a collaborator. To lure the security savvy traitor into the open she must become his mistress. But at what point does pretence end and passion really begin?
I'm not entirely sure. Despite some infamous sex scenes, I found it all a little too passionless. As befits a film by Ang Lee ('Brokeback Mountain', 'Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon'), this is a rich, beautiful movie, but with its slow pace and long running time, it suffers from the restraint shown. An occasional outburst by the excellent Wei Tang is simply not enough to gain our empathy. Does she really care for Mr Yee? Do we care?
For the climax to have any impact, the audience can be in no doubt of Wong Chia Chi's feelings, and must have bought into them long ago. I don't believe Ang Lee does enough to earn that payoff and it is at the end that he seems most unsure. The climactic diamond scene becomes a throw-away moment instead of a culmination, as arbitrary as Chi's emotions appear to be. As such it undermines all that has gone before. And a lot has gone before. It leaves a slightly bitter taste.
I have no doubt that were I to see 'Lust,Caution' again I would still find much to admire. Lee is an artist and even a work that doesn't meet his highest standards is worthy of attention (think of 'Hulk'). This film is by no means a second rate work, not even a second rate Lee film, but it does not achieve the emotional resonance it tries hard to win. A near miss then, but so close, so close.

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At 8:44 pm, Blogger ian said...

I also found her switch from loathing yer man to wuvving him a bit hard to take. It seemed to come out of nowhere, and it made me like the film's ending, given how repulsive and individual he was. You could explain it out through Stockholm Syndrome, but that was not really suggested in the film. It looked more like he basically bought her with the diamond.


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