Lust, Caution

Tang Wei and Tony Leung in Lust, Caution (Focus Features)

In Lust, Caution, Oscar-winner Ang Lee’s first Chinese-language film since Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, patriotic drama students in 1938 Hong Kong stage a stiffly nationalistic play intended to bolster a populace battered by the Second Sino-Japanese war. Sure enough, the performance elicits frenzied audience exhortations of “China will not fall!” Heady with success, the group’s ambitious young director Kuang (played by pop singer Wang Leehom) announces their next production: infiltrate the household of Mr. Yee (Tony Leung), a high-ranking official in the Chinese collaborationist government, and assassinate him. Key to this scheme is the troupe’s leading lady Wong Chia Chi (a remarkably poised debut by Tang Wei), who will pose as “Mrs. Mak,” the wealthy, neglected wife of an absentee businessman, thus luring Yee into an affair.

There’s a romantic abandon with which Kuang and his friends initially immerse themselves. Time, nonetheless, wears on; one of the most true-to-life aspects of Lust, Caution lies in how Lee conveys the boredom of patriots growing frustrated . . .

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