I enjoy watching Tony Leung in 2046, The Infernal Affairs Trilogy (Infernal Affairs 1 / Infernal Affairs 2 / Infernal Affairs 3) (Special Collector's Edition Box Set) and In the Mood for Love - Criterion Collectionso it was right for me to watch "Lust and Caution." This movie wasn't so hot in the theaters and targeted to a selective few. This movie starts with the Japanese occupying Shanghai during the second world war and resistance group member Wong Chia Chi (Tang Wei) is on a mission to assassinate Mr. Yee (Tony Leung), the head of China's Secret Service who's also a collaborator with the Japanese.
She's been groomed by a student theater group specializing in plays about propaganda and patriotism. Impressed by her acting skills she's recruited as a spy. She adopts the fake persona of a young wife with a lot of time on her hands, because her rich husband is away on business, and befriends Yee's gossipy mahjong playing wife (Joan Chen). She also infiltrates his bed, with the plan to seduce him and then hand him over to her patriot friends. He slipped through the net once before and now, three years later, she has him where she wants him. But lust gets in the way of her mission and she becomes unsure whether she wants to be his mistress or his murderer. There's no nookie until 90 minutes into the film, but it's well worth waiting for. Slapped with an NC-17 rating in the US, Lee refused to cut it but shaved off seven minutes for the Chinese censors.
In Hollywood standards I thought the sex is graphic and realistic, bringing to mind the "Did they? Didn't they?" of the frantic couplings of Julie Christie and Donald Sutherland in "Don't Look Now." The smoldering lovers reach many graphic sexual climaxes, but fail to achieve equivalent emotional peaks. The intensity of their relationship calls into question Wong Chia Chi's motives considering she's played as a half reluctant participant, coerced into carrying out Yee's abduction by the amateur resistance group.
Lee's late glamorous `30s Shanghai with its immaculate sets and women in perfect period costume gives Shanghai a romantic exoticism that belies the poverty and fear of the majority of its inhabitants. Beautifully shot, rich in color and full of intrigue Lee is less interested in the historical consequences of Japan's invasion of China and concentrates on the passionate - bordering on sadistic - relationship between his leads, see it for yourself it's a pretty good film.