Lust, Caution (‘Se, Jie’)

DRAMA; 2hr 38min (Mandarin with subtitles)

STARRING: Tony Leung, Tang Wei

Driven to extremes: Wei and Leung

Whatever language he works in, director Ang Lee (Brokeback Mountain) isn’t one to hurry. Adapted from a 1978 short story by Eileen Chang, Lust, Caution is a thinking man’s bodice-ripper about a young Chinese woman (Wei as Wong Chia Chi) who, while conspiring with the Shanghai resistance to help assassinate a senior World War II Japanese collaborator (Leung, as inscrutable as a carving), becomes physically and emotionally entangled with him. True to artistic form, Lee goes to town on the atmospheric detail as Wong, posing as wealthy businessman’s wife Mak Tai Tai, works her exquisite feminine wiles on her sternly repressed target.


When a game of mahjong is a minefield, when a lingering glance is an entire conversation and when sexuality is a potential killing tool, time —  or the taking of it, at least — is arguably essential, although maybe not this much time. Lee’s psychological manoeuvring is as nuanced as calligraphy. But its musky slide to impending disaster — athletic sex scenes and all — has the get-up and go of a tea ceremony.