That Ang Lee. On the one hand, it doesn't seem fair that the man who made Brokeback Mountain should also be able to wring forth from the depths of his directing soul Eat Drink Man Woman and Lust, Caution. On the other hand, it makes perfect sense. The movies all absolutely share Lee's sensibility in their rendering.
The mah jongg scenes were so excellently played out: the wonderful sounds of the washing of the bones, the quick and shifting strategy, the sharp and constant gossip while playing, no mercy, the calm calling out of chinese moves, the triumphant exclaims of "mah jongg" when a player has won, and, perhaps most intriguingly, the undercurrents of people's relationships playing out in subtle ways. These scenes blew Joy Luck Club's scenes out of the water.
Excellent film, by the way, in general. Makes me want to go read Eileen Chang's short story, on which it was based--both of which were highlighted in a VCFA lecture by Xu Xi this past June-July. The storyline kept me on my toes. The timing was pre-Cultural Revolution, specifically during World War II, set in Hong Kong and Shanghai. The plot is shadowed with intrigue, spies, traitors, war, and assasination attempts. An unlikely affair develops between two people who already know not to trust each other, and the shape that that "love" takes is one of all sharp edges and not a single forgiving curve. The casting was very well done, including, notably, well-known Chinese actor Tony Leung Chiu Wai as Mr. Yee, newcomer Wei Tang in her first film role as Wong Chia Chi/ Mak Tai Tai, and Chinese popstar Lee-Hom Wang as Kuang Yu Min, the love interest of Wong Chia Chi prior to her becoming ensnared so deeply in the plot to assassinate Mr. Yee. Joan Chen plays Yee Tai Tai, Mr. Yee's wife. I spent the entire movie trying to figure out why she was so familiar and likeable--finally realizing she was the actress who played the wonderful mother character in Saving Face.
Notably, Lust, Caution is also the first "foreign" film Dave has remotely enjoyed.