I just watched his latest, Lust, Caution, last night. This Lee film also brought controversy, because of its NC-17 rating, which originated from Lee and Focus Features refusal to cut the graphic sex scenes. And graphic they are... I can see why the film got an NC-17 rating. But let's get one thing straight - this isn't porn. The sex in these scenes doesn't play to some male fantasy of what sex should be. It simply portrays a naturalistic version of what sex is - sometimes awkward, sometimes enjoyable, sometimes painful, sometimes distant. If you don't like seeing sex in films, especially graphic sex, don't rent this film, but... you'll be missing out, and here's why -
Lust, Caution is a top notch spy drama (and notice I said drama, and not thriller). It centers around a young woman, Wong Chai Chi, who joins a group of Chinese nationalist rebels when Japan invades China during World War 2 (now, for those of you that aren't sure about history, China is not a communist country at this point. That doesn't happen until well after World War 2.) Her mission is to get close to a Japanese collaborator, Mr. Yee, played by the AMAZING Tony Leung (a favorite of master filmmaker Wong Kar Wai). Mr. Yee flirts with the young girl, who is going by the name Mai Tai Tai, but is hesitant to become involved with her, because he's married, and he knows there are people trying to kill him. When she is almost exposed, though, she disappears for several years, but eventually runs into the resistance again. They enlist her, yet again, to kill Mr. Yee, and she reconnects with him, only to have their relationship consummated in a violent way. She continues to have sex with Yee, waiting for the order to come through to kill him, and as she does this, she begins to fall in love with him. Will she be able to do the deed, though, when the time comes?
Lust, Caution is, like I said, top notch. The acting is spot on, the set design, costuming, lighting, cinematography, everything is excellent. Although it does have its slow moments, its intensity and craft make up for any of that. The only real problem I had with this film was having to keep up with the subtitles. The characters talk so fast, sometimes, that you lose part of the sentence, because another character is already talking. All in all, a great film, and its really disappointing that I didn't get to see this one in theaters. But, I live in a place where it is difficult, if not impossible, to see anything rated NC-17. People would probably have flipped out and protested if this film had opened here (without, of course, having actually seen it). I hope you do give Lust, Caution a chance. It's really beautiful.