Ang Lee Stuns Again


Published: October 11, 2007

I suggest that you arrive early to see this movie, or you may find yourself turned away from a theater that filled up 45 minutes prior to show time. Luckily, I knew some people, and like some illegal transaction, accepted my ticket from the manager in an alley behind the theater, as a group of 20 people looked on in disgust.

But what had attracted so many people to this small theater on a Thursday night? Maybe the theater was filled with really cheap people taking advantage of a free movie. Maybe it was filled with curious perverts hoping to gawk at the numerous sex scenes that gave this film an NC-17 rating, or maybe there were 230 people in the theater because they were enthusiastic moviegoers who wanted to see the new film created by the genius that is Ang Lee. I think am going to stick with my third answer.

Like many of his other movies (i.e. “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon,” “Brokeback Mountain”), “Lust, Caution” was created using a thorough artistic process, with all attention given to every detail. Lee uses the camera as his paintbrush, adding elements of surrealism and sensuality to his already emotionally-powered script. With the help of cinematographer Rodrigo Prieto, he has created a visually pleasing film with thorough character development and rich storytelling, turning a short story by Eileen Chang into a two-and-a-half-hour masterpiece.

Lee’s starlet is Wei Tang (her movie debut), who plays Mrs. Mak and Wong Chia Chi (depending on where you are in the story). Of course, her real name is Wong, a university freshman led by her youth and innocence to a drama society. The actors, under the leadership of Kuang Yu Min (Wang Leehom), conspire to assassinate Mr. Yee (Tony Leung), a traitor to the Chinese government. It is at this time that Wong becomes the seductive Mrs. Mak, the actor responsible for getting the closest to Yee. Mak befriends Yee’s wife and partakes in her weekly mahjong games, which become one of the central events of the film. Without hesitation Mak moves in for the kill, getting closer to the elusive Mr. Yee.

After a night of fatal mistakes, the conspiracy is called off and the characters all go their own way. Eventually, Wong/Mak reunites with Kuang in 1941-Japanese-occupied Shanghai, where Wong now lives with her mother. The reunion pulls the assassination back into planning and Mak back into Yee’s bed. Mak finds Yee, who is more fearful for his life than before, and their affair commences for a second time with a new fiery passion. The new affair brings about an identity crisis in Wong, which culminates in the film’s shocking finale.

The film’s conclusion left me in a state of pure ecstasy, still caught up with the film’s final image of an empty bed (I will say no more—see the movie for yourself). Not only was the conclusion so emotionally charged, but the viewer feels as though he has awakened from a dream. For the first time in almost three hours, I realized I was watching a film. Lee has crafted a movie which pulls its viewers into another reality, and returns them to their seats not only shocked, but dumbfounded, questioning every aspect of their own lives and relationships. The film’s everlasting quality will most likely give Lee something to celebrate on Oscar night, and also give the viewers something to ruminate upon for weeks to come.

Because of the film’s NC-17 rating, many theaters refuse to show “Lust, Caution.” Luckily for Fordham moviegoers, Lincoln Plaza Cinemas (located at 1886 Broadway) is the only theater in Manhattan showing the film. It’s a quick walk from the Lincoln Center campus.