With “Lust, Caution” Lee delves into a little-known aspect of WWII: the underground resistance in Japanese-occupied Shanghai. But the helmer has an uncanny talent for making the epic intimate and painting characters with the kind of intricate detail that reflects larger truths.
His heroine, a young would-be actress, must seduce a high-level collaborator with the aim of assassinating him. Here, the Oscar-winning director of “Brokeback Mountain” views the oxymoronic nature of “Lust, Caution” from a philosophical standpoint. “Anything you see is lust in the Chinese teachings,” he explains. “The word ‘lust’ also means color. In the Buddhist teachings, any phenomenon or projection of emotion or desire is a projection of the truth — they’re not the truth, they are mirroring the truth. Therefore you have to be cautious.”