Set during World War II in Japanese occupied China, a college student participates in a political group’s scheme to kill an official they believe is corrupt, and she’s the only one who can get close enough to get vital information.
Chia Chi (Tang Wei) is inducted into a budding drama society at the university, which they use as a ruse for their political agenda. They are frankly sick and tired of the power and corruption of the government, and the lowered standard of living in the country. They set their sights on political official Yee (Tony Leung Chiu Wai), for assassination.
To get the ball rolling, Chia Chi has progressed from collegiate to revolutionary to spy. Her identity has been changed to that of a “proper” woman of the day, married and assisting with her “husband”‘s import and export business, all to infiltrate the household. While it starts out with her gaining the friendship of Yee?s wife (Joan Chen), all the mahjong that they play and the superficial banter isn?t getting what she needs. It’s time to come up with another way. As one would think, Yee and Chia Chi embark on a sexual relationship, and that’s when things begin to get muddled and complicated.
While the film was very long, we were filled in on the ins and outs of this kind of mission and how the feelings of all parties involved (especially our heroine) change and grow. As I often do, I posed many questions as the film progressed. Did she fall in love with Yee? Was it the complex and somewhat sadomasochistic relationship that had her keep going back for more? Or was she just toying with him and everyone else connected to this plot? Even with the film?s ending being rather matter of fact, I?m still pondering those questions. The answer can?t be that cut and dry.
As you would expect, it is visually and musically stunning. The performances were wonderful, as I thought they would be. The political backdrop wasn’t too distracting or overwhelming, which I was quite pleased with. It served its purpose by contributing to the plotline. I must say, excellent job by all that were involved.
So, why, exactly, did this get an NC-17 rating? Those rather long and extremely racy sex scenes, that?s why. This is definitely not kind of film to take your teenager to. Ang Lee has delivered another classic. It was beautiful and poetic, and absolutely worth a screening.
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