Long before Pearl Harbor, Japan was terrorizing a country that was a lot closer to their homeland. China was an easy target and they conquered them with much bloodshed but little overall resistance. After they were conquered, it came down to the Chinese themselves to guard against insurgents and resistance workers. Many Chinese supported the Japan occupation and therefore became collaborators. But the Chinese did not give up. They infiltrated and tried to take down every possible Chinese figure in command. They didn’t always succeed, but like the French during the German occupation, they fought hard. Lust, Caution tells the story of a young woman recruited by a resistance group and made to be a mistress to one of the most powerful Chinese collaborators out there.
Chia Chi Wong is put into a position where she needs to seduce Mr. Yee in order to assassinate him. Their relationship involves a separation of several years until finally they give in to each other. Mr. Yee is brutal. He is brutal while doing his job interrogating them, he is brutal in his speech, and he is brutal in his love-making. Chia is drawn to him, while also being disgusted by what he does. She does what the resistance group tells her to do, but will she be able to give him up when the time comes?
The mid war cinematography was spot on but it does not call attention to itself. Unlike Farewell, My Concubine, I forgot for long stretches of time what year it was supposed to be. This is a good thing in my book. I don’t want to get bogged down in too much historical details so you can’t see the woods for the trees. I loved the subtly and assurance the camera had as it whisked through Mr. Yee’s house and down the streets of Shanghai.
Ang Lee is no stranger to complicated relationships and man is this a doozy. What I like about this film is that Mr. Lee treats his subjects with respect and with humanity. Mr. Yee may on the outside be a very cold and calculating person, but he is able to show love and be loved by such a beautiful woman. On the flip side of the coin, Chia seems to be easily manipulated by men and soft and sensitive, but she has an inner strength that shows through when she is meeting with her resistance leader. This duality in the two main characters is what kept me watching a very long film. Some people might find it boring if they are not sucked into their psyche, but I found it riveting.