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Lust, Caution

The Contenders

Release date: Sept. 28 Distributor: Focus Features

In his first film since his directing Oscar for “Brokeback Mountain,” Ang Lee again defies expectations with “Lust, Caution.”

To read the consumer-media stories about the NC-17 pic, one might think it’s about sex. But sex is only one element in the screenplay by James Schamus and Wang Hui-ling (adapting Eileen Chang’s very short story), which is dense with detail about the Japanese WWII occupation of China, social strata and the overlap of love and betrayal.

Lee laughs that the two-hour, 40-minute film seems slow to some Westerners, but Asians think it’s too fast-moving “because there’s a lot going on.” And with so much going on, kudos voters could respond positively.

As a revolutionary who seduces a collaborator in order to assassinate him, Tang Wei grows from a young innocent to a woman dealing with conflicting feelings. It’s a complex performance from an actress making her film debut.

The film’s score (by Alexandre Desplat) and visuals create a moody setting — a rich tapestry that, incredibly, was achieved on a budget of less than $15 million.

The pic combines elements of past Oscar winners, including “The English Patient,” a love story in a wartime setting, and the poetic exoticism of Lee’s own “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.”

While it has broken box office records in Asia, domestically the film has earned less than $4 million so far. And reviews were mixed, with those who loved it and those who felt otherwise.

But Lee has a rabid following, and his name is likely to lure voters who just may be seduced by “Lust.”

See photos, trailer and more on ‘Lust, Caution’

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