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Last Updated: Wednesday, 2 January 2008, 08:36 GMT
Sex 'pivotal' to Lust, says Lee
By Neil Smith
Entertainment reporter, BBC News

Director Ang Lee has said he would rather his sexually explicit film Lust, Caution lost money than be shown in a "compromised" form.

Ang Lee at the 2007 Venice Film Festival
Lee has won the top award at the Venice Film Festival twice
The film - a 1940s espionage thriller set in Shanghai during the Japanese occupation - received a restrictive NC-17 rating when it opened in the US last September.

The period drama, which won the Golden Lion award at the 2007 Venice Film Festival, will be released in the UK on 4 January with an 18 certificate.

While an 18 certificate is roughly equivalent to an American NC-17, the US rating is generally considered to affect a film's ability to attract a big American audience.

The film was shown unedited in Hong Kong and Taiwan, but had its sex scenes excised by authorities in China.

"When you cut those scenes, you still get the story and can understand it completely," the 53-year-old told the BBC News website.

"But if I'm allowed to include them, I'd rather lose money than show a lesser version."


The "pivotal" sex scenes between actors Tony Leung and Tang Wei were shot over 11 days on a closed set, with only the main camera and sound personnel present.

"I just did what I thought was best for the movie and what I felt was necessary," said Lee.

Tony Leung and Tang Wei in Lust, Caution
His latest film is set in Shanghai during the Japanese occupation
"I didn't think about the scary part - how it would look and what kind of trouble I would get myself into," he continued.

"But it turned out people have reacted a lot more positively than I expected."

Based on a short story by the late Chinese author Eileen Chang, Lust, Caution - Se, Jie in Mandarin - tells of a group of actors who plot to assassinate an enemy collaborator.

The film's young heroine, however, finds her mission imperilled by her powerful attraction to the man she has been ordered to seduce.

Speaking at the London Film Festival last October, the Taiwanese director explained why he chose to follow his 2005 drama Brokeback Mountain with a Chinese-language film.

Martial arts

"If I didn't make it, I don't think anybody could have," he said. "I got a lot of support after winning the Oscar [for Brokeback Mountain], so I felt the time was right.

"In 10 years this history will be gone with the wind. Anybody who lived through it will have passed away."

Jake Gyllenhaal and Heath Ledger in Brokeback Mountain
Lee won a best director Oscar for "gay western" Brokeback Mountain
Since making his English-language debut with Jane Austen adaptation Sense and Sensibility in 1995, Lee has made only one other movie in his native tongue.

That was Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon - a martial arts epic that went on to win the 2001 Oscar for best foreign language film.

"I don't have a specific plan about how many Chinese movies I do," he said.

"But I'm glad after doing two English language films [Brokeback and 2003's Hulk] I got to go back to China."

Lee returned knowing he would need to adopt a more "hands-on" role than would normally be the case in Hollywood.


"Chinese film for me is exhausting," he admitted. "It's a smaller industry, so I had to do a lot of the pushing personally."

Focus Features, the specialty films unit of Universal Pictures, will no doubt be hoping Lust, Caution will replicate some of Brokeback's award-winning success.

Ziyi Zhang in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
His other films include action epic Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
Its hopes of winning the 2008 foreign language film Oscar, however, were scuppered when it was rejected by the Academy.

Too few of the film's key crew members hailed from Taiwan for it to be eligible, the selection committee ruled.

Lee admits to being baffled by the panel's decision, saying the rejection "came as a surprise".

"I think it's a stern regulation, and an old-fashioned way of thinking," he said.

"Films are made by a lot of people, and whoever is best for the job gets hired.

"It seems a little dated to me, as an international film-maker."

Ang Lee leads Golden Horse race
29 Oct 07 |  Entertainment
Ang Lee film ruled out of Oscars
18 Oct 07 |  Entertainment
Blanchett wins top Venice award
09 Sep 07 |  Entertainment
Ang Lee film 'censored for China'
03 Sep 07 |  Entertainment
Lee aims at second Venice victory
31 Aug 07 |  Entertainment

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