by John Stoehr
The Terrace Theatre told me yesterday it was planning to screen Ang Lee's new film, Lust, Caution. This is the latest film from the creator of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and Brokeback Mountain, and, um -- Stan Lee's Hulk!?
Then there's the added complication of Lust, Caution's being rated NC-17 for its lenghtly sex scenes. What thread could possibly tie these four films together? One's about assassins in ancient China, another's about gay cowboys out West, the third's about a raging radioactive mutant, and the last is about political intrigue, sado-masochism, and betrayal in Japanese-occupied Shanghai? It's a tough question. Interestingly, Roger Ebert, on his website, had this to say:
When their sex drifts steadily into S&M, the nature of their relationship shifts. It is impossible to say that Wong Chia Chi/Mrs. Mak likes his tastes in pain and bondage, but they create a fearful intimacy that, for both of them, transcends their lives apart. And it is that tension, between private fascination and public danger, that gives the movie its purpose.
Failing to find the connecting link between such Ang Lee films as "Sense and Sensibility," "Brokeback Mountain" and "The Hulk," I was quickly corrected by readers who said, obviously, all his films are about people trying to realize their essential natures despite the constraints of society. Readers, you were right. Here we have a woman who hates her lover enough to help kill him, and yet is mesmerized by him. And a man whose official position would be destroyed by the exposure of this affair (especially if Mrs. Mak's true identity were discovered). Yet the heart, as Pascal said, has its reasons. Mr. Yee and Mrs. Mak are just as transgressive as the Brokeback lovers, just as entranced by a form of sex that is frowned on by their societies.
The nature of the sex is Lee's subject, and he is too honest to suppress that. His moments of full frontal nudity avoid the awkwardness of most movie sex scenes in which the lovers, although alone, carefully mask their naughty bits. The scenes are not edited for erotic effect, it must be observed, but are treated in terms of their psychological meaning.
Here are the times starting Friday:
Lust, Caution (NC-17)
FRI-SAT: 12:15 p.m., 3:20 p.m., 6:30 p.m., 9:30 p.m.
SUN-THURS: 2 p.m., 5:10 p.m., 8:20 p.m.
Here's the trailer. Enjoy.