“Lust | Caution” (色, 戒)

An email sent on ~Nov. 1, 2007:
Have you seen "Lust | Caution" (色, 戒).  If so, do you like it or ?

Before talking about the movie, I’d just like to let you know that due to funding issues, I’d let my Physics Dept. colleagues know that I quit the "Daya Bay" project.
My Collider-Accelerator Dept. finally can’t put up with me using Nuclear Physics funding to do High Energy Physics research … ( I thought nobody could tell the difference 🙂 But I had thought about dropping this project before and this is probably a good excuse. I don’t feel being too useful … though I did learn something about the neutrino expt. (eg. the purer the water, the more dangerous it is). So, I won’t have "free"/frequent trips to Asia any more.

I went to see「色, 戒」on Sat. It’s not bad but not as good as I’ve hoped for. A couple colleagues had high praise for it … which was partially why I decided to have a go for it. I watched with my mom. Apart from complaining about the sex scenes, my mom didn’t understand the ending. I think, if I didn’t know in advance Tang Wei’s (leading actress) role 王佳芝 "fell for" Leung Chiu Wai’s role 易先生, I would be confused, too. Because I just couldn’t feel that there was a "love" suddenly. It’s too sudden and too awkward. Or, I couldn’t tell from Tang’s act. I am a fan of Ang Lee’s works such as "Wedding banquet" (so many years ago !!!) and "Eat Drink Man Woman". These movies were filled with love, passion and emotion, which are very palpable. But here it’s not.

張愛玲 always likes to write stories with those evil/bad coincidences (bad luck rather than good luck) or hidden evil desire. Here, it’s kind of bad luck that 王佳芝 suddenly had a emotion of love for 易先生 at the most critical moment of her spying business/plot and she hinted 易先生 for his imminent danger. It came so suddenly and I don’t think the director has done a good job, at least not in my opinion. Just not persuasive.

張愛玲 has always had to be bitter…. I typically watch Ruby Lin’s TV/movies quite a few times but I just haven’t been able to watch 半生緣 (originally written by 張) for the complete 2nd time. Because it’s too sad. My first 張愛玲 book was 《秧歌》 and I had had a lot of tears … It seems that one never felt good after reading 張愛玲 which is now a rule applicable to other works derived from hers.

But Tang Wei is good in this movie. In fact, she’s appeared the most minutes in the entire movie and there are only few minutes that she was not in. I think she did a good job and if anything not satisfactory, I would blame the director. She’s likable in her role and one would feel pity for her at the end, more than the other roles.  The story that she had to give her first night to her university classmate (and practise having sex) so that 易先生 would not find Mrs. Mak was actually a virgin is funny.  It’s also a tragedy (thanks to 張愛玲 I guess ) as he didn’t get to go to bed with 易先生 before 易先生 actually went back to Shanghai. Leung Chiu Wai didn’t have nearly as many minutes as Tang Wei. Taiwanese Wang LeeHom (who grew up in US) at times poke worse Mandarin than Leung Chiu Wai — a bit surprised ! (I only seen Ruby Lin acting with him once before. ) In fact, in addition to the famous Joan Chen, I think I know many Chinese/Taiwanese actors and actresses in this movie, thanks to watching many Ruby’s works.

—- It’s an interesting and familiar feeling. When I was in HK and watched the Hollywood films, I didn’t know most of the actors and actresses. Later, when I came to US, I’d found that most of them were in TV etc.  Now, it’s similar… after watching those Ruby Lin’s Chinese TV series (and some movies), all those (non-HK) Chinese actors and actresses are no longer strangers 😉

My BNL colleague didn’t realize that Lingnan University was in Canton and he thought that it was Lingnan U. where the students were seen studying. But of course, I wouldn’t make the mistake ! Because the location is HKU. It’s Lingnan U. (from Canton) moved to HK and borrowed part of the HKU campus during the war. Though studying in HKU campus, those were Lingnan U. students. It’s mentioned a bit in the movie if one could catch the dialogues quickly but it was not well explained. The most satisfying moment was when 王佳芝 was acting at the stage of Loke Yew Hall (among other HKU scenes).  Because I remember very well that I was acting there once (for University Hall in a drama competition) !!!!! It brought back the memories of the good old days …. though my acting was a disaster.

But the patriotic acts in the movie were kind of laughable and I kind of feel repulsive to it … (Probably any kind of patriotic act in China or US are repulsive to me. ) I understand those (really) Cantonese students trying to get the patriotic feeling of the HK people but I still don’t have much good feeling for it. The students (temporary actors/actresses) in that Loke Yew Hall scene were all rather old … It’s also surprising that the naïve Lingnan students could fool 易先生 so easily …— really like a flaw of 張愛玲. The movie was longer than 2.5 hours and I felt quite bad at the last hour, simply because I wanted to go to toilet badly !! I was hoping that it’d end sooner than later …. That probably didn’t help …

One interesting bit is that there are many languages in this movie, in addition to Mandarin, there are Shanghainese, Cantonese, English, as well as a few simple exchanges of Japanese and a couple Indian. I’ve recovered a tiny bit of my mother tongue "Shanghainese" after I left HK but I still found myself reading the English subtitle most of the time when people were speaking Shanghainese. Apart from this imperfection, I feel satisfied that I could almost understand 4 languages in this movie 🙂

As for the sex scenes, you got to look at Leung’s balls at a (long) distance 😛 It’s the most daring one indeed but I guess in order to cover Leung’s and Tang’s lower parts (even though the hairs were all there), the bodies are extremely aerobically placed. I only feel that it’s too much hard work making love like that ? Either the legs are protracted to the limit or are twisted/bent to some impossibly sharp angles — a lot of strain on the knees … It can’t be too comfortable … maybe, the director wants to convey an idea of antagonism even on bed !

Kin

 
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About kinyip

An experimental particle physicist ...
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