Tuesday, May 13, 2008

"Lust, Caution"

This film by that Ang Lee fellow bears comparisons with Paul Verhoeven's The Black Book, in that it features spies, occupiers, collaborators, weird sex, degradation of women, and so on. The film is set during the period when the Japanese were expanding their control of China, the story being about a woman using herself as bait to lure a leading collaborator to his death. There is a lot to like in this film, with the setting (occupied Shanghai and pre-war Hong Kong) in particular being very well evoked. The film looks great as well, reminding me somewhat of films by Wong Kar Wai and that guy who made Shanghai Triad in its stylishness and art direction.

The film nevertheless has features of which I am less fond. The sex scenes are pretty disturbing, and they do rather go on a bit and involve a lot of non-Euclidean geometry. I found the ending a bit unsatisfying as well. Stop reading now if you hate spoilers and are ever realistically likely to see this film. Basically, I did not feel that the heroine's decision to tip off the collaborator made narrative or psychological sense. You could imagine how someone in that kind of situation might be turned by the collaborator, through something akin to Stockholm syndrome. The film, however, failed to suggest that this was happening, and her tipping off the collaborator seemed to come from nowhere. For all that, the downbeat ending was quite striking, and I suppose the film must be saluted for its non-Hollywood approach to plot resolution.

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