• Lust, Caution (Kino Lorber) Blu-ray Review

    Released by: Kino Lorber
    Released on: March 30th, 2021.
    Director: Ang Lee
    Cast: Tony Leung, Joan Chen, Tang Wei
    Year: 2007
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    Lust, Caution – Movie Review:

    Ang Lee’s controversial 2007 film Lust, Caution opens in the Hong Kong of 1942 where a game of Mahjong where some women play and tell stories. We then flashback to Shanghai where we learn that one of the women, who was a college student at the time, had been involved with a very influential and wealthy businessman.

    Mrs. Yee (Joan Chen) is hosting the game in the home provided by her husband Mr. Yee (Tony Leung). Mr. Yee, since relocating from Hong Kong to Shanghai, has slowly but surely made his way up the ladder in the local government to the point where he now has some influence, though in exchange for this influence he’s in charge of torturing those who would go against the local government’s cooperation with the Japanese. When he arrives home in the middle of the game, it’s clear that he recognizes one of the players, Mrs. Mak (Tang Wei). She, too, is extremely wealthy and while she’s reportedly married, her husband never seems to be around – he travels a lot of business, she tells people. Again, we get more flashbacks, as her backstory is filled in for us and her story of her political past and her ties to Mr. Yee are exposed.

    It isn’t much of a spoiler to note that Mak was brought on by an opposing faction to seduce Mr. Yee and becomes his mistress with the intention of assassinating him while they both lived in Shanghai, but we won’t go into any more plot details than that.

    Presented here in its proper NC-17 uncut version, Lust, Caution is an absolutely beautiful film on a technical level. The pacing may put some off, as it is a slow burn and at almost three-hours in length, it makes for a bit of a commitment. That said, if you’re a patient viewer, it’s easy to get wrapped up in all of the melodrama and lush production values. Every frame is perfectly composed and the use of color in the fantastic sets and costumes that were created for this picture is always impressive. The score, the cinematography and the editing are all top notch and on a visual level, the film really is a remarkable achievement.

    As to the story itself, again, it unfolds very slowly but it is compelling enough. There are a few layers of intrigue that keep things interesting and the plotting is detailed and offers some pretty rich character development. The performances are excellent across the board, with Tony Leung really delivering an excellent turn as the ever so complicated Mr. Yee. He has an interesting chemistry with both the lovely Joan Chen and the equally lovely Tang Wei (in her first feature film appearance). All three of the leads deliver pretty brave work here, what with the NC-17 rating being awarded to the film for the sex scenes (some of which drift into S&M territory) rather than any particularly strong violence.

    Ultimately, despite the bloated running time, it’s an interesting film that deals in hefty doses of sexual politics, power plays and people trying to figure out who they really and truly are and what they want out of life. It’s a moving and involving film, rife with passion and food for though. Not a perfect picture, but one very much worthy of your time.

    Lust, Caution – Blu-ray Review:

    Lust, Caution arrives on Region A Blu-ray from Kino Lorber on a dual-layered BD50 Disc with the feature taking up 45GBs of space. The AVC encoded 1080p high definition transfer is frame at 1.85.1 widescreen and it typically looks gorgeous. The colors are perfect and pretty much each frame of the transfer shows excellent clarity. There’s consistently impressive depth noticeable throughout the movie and great texture evident on the clothing and the sets. Skin tones never look anything less than lifelike and natural and we get strong black levels too. The image is free of any print damage, it’s pretty much pristine, and the transfer shows no evidence of noise reduction, edge enhancement or compression artifact problems. It’s hard to take issue with anything in this regard, it really is a beautiful transfer.

    Chinese language options are provided in 16-bit DTS-HD 5.1 and 2.0 Stereo Master Audio tracks with optional English Subtitles. The 5.1 mix does a nice job of spreading out the score and some of the sound effects but keeps most of the dialogue up front in the mix, sounding pretty close to the stereo track in this regard. Either way, the audio is very good. Dialogue is crisp, clean and clear and the score has some really immersive depth to it at times, as do the sound effects. There are no issues at all with any hiss or distortion. Again, the disc scores high marks in this department.

    The main extra on the disc is a new audio commentary by Film Historian Eddy Von Mueller who offers some background on his work before then getting into the film proper where he offers up a lot of insight into the hidden meanings of certain scenes. As the track progresses he gives plenty of details on the cast and crew, noting Tony Chiu-Wai Leung's importance in the picture, the original story that inspired the movie, the controversy surrounding the book as well as the film adaptation of it, the depiction of Shanghai in various western films and how it differs in this picture, the socio-political background that the story plays off of, the visual language of 1940's cinema and how Ang Lee uses it in this picture, the quality of the 'old school, thoroughly Hollywood' score used in the movie, the depiction of sex in the film, Tang Wei (in her feature debut) and Joan Chen's performances, the use of tight close ups, the editing and lots more.

    Additionally, the disc includes a seventeen-minute featurette entitled Tiles Of Deception & Lurid Affections that does a pretty deep dive into everything that Ang Lee did to get this movie made. There's some behind the scenes footage here as well as interviews with Ang Lee himself, producer James Schamus, cinematographer Rodrigo Pietro, actors Tony Leung, Tang Wei and Joan Chen, producer Bill Kong and more. It gives us a really interesting look at the scope of the sets that were created for the film as well as background information on the story that inspired the movie.

    Rounding out the extras is a theatrical trailer as well as bonus trailers for Thirst and Spetters. Menus and chapter selection are also provided.

    Lust, Caution - The Final Word:

    Lust, Caution moves slowly but if you’re in a patient frame of mind, despite the pacing issues it is a very well-made film. The production values are exceptional and the acting from the leads never less than impressive. Kino’s Blu-ray release features a very strong commentary and an interesting featurette and, most importantly, presents the film itself in an absolutely gorgeous presentation. Recommended!

    Click on the images below for full sized Lust, Caution Blu-ray screen caps!