Monday, September 03, 2007


Hoho, all the articles in today's Shanghai Morning Post about An Li's new film "Lust, Caution" read like they were written by junior highers: ooh, that movie has naked people in it! The only article that amused me at all was the editorial by Liu Yiwei called "Lust, Caution, Embarrassment" (which I'll loosely and hurriedly translate below):

The Cannes Film Festival has opened, Li An's new Film "Lust, Caution" is getting good reviews, and audiences are waiting expectantly. However, the wait is pregnant with a sort of awkward embarrassment that's not easy to shake off.

First and foremost, this embarrassment is located within certain "related departments". Even though I have never worked for the government, I can imagine their manner of operation. Because "Lust, Caution" got an R rating in the US, it has qualified in Hong Kong as a third-level, pornographic, film. Reports are saying that not only do lead actors Tony Leung and Tang Wei get naked, they get naked to the "third degree", and the excitement lasts for a total of 25 minutes.

Pornographic films are nothing to be afraid of if you have a ratings system in place. But we don't. If a movie is shown in China, it must be watchable by everybody or it can't be shown publicly. It's going to be hard to justify not showing this one though. It's every Chinese director's film to win an Oscar. In this case, the director won both an Oscar and Hollywood's heart, returned to the motherland, and gave his next movie to the Chinese film world; no matter by reason nor by emotion, this film has got to make it to the Chinese audience.

So, if it's gotta be seen, how are we going to see it? It'll probably be the usual snip-snip, cutting out the parts that need to be cut. The rational will be that, anyways, the movie is 2 and a half hours long, if you cut out the exciting parts it'll still be long enough.

Making us watch a sanitized version of "Lust, Caution", though, would be pretty unfair. As adults in full possession of adult judgment, we'd resent being sent back to the teeny-bopper maturity level. What's more, an eminent movie director like An Li surely wouldn't throw sex into a movie just for kicks. There's gotta be a good reason for having those scenes, and it's too bad that in China An Li won't be able to share those reasons with us.

So movie ratings are still a pretty important thing. From the example of "Lust, Caution" we can see that a ratings system wouldn't allow sex in film to run rampant over the screen, rather it would allow for a more principled management of the topic.

(Ugh, that sounds really disjointed. No time to go back and smooth it over. Just trust me, it flows better in the original.)


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