Se, jie (Lust, Caution) (2007)
Director: Ang Lee.
Starring: Tony Leung Chiu Wai (Mr. Yee), Wei Tang (Wong Chia Chi / Mak Tai Tai), Joan Chen (Yee Tai Tai), Lee-Hom Wang (Kuang Yu Min), Chung Hua Tou (Old Wu), Chih-ying Chu (Lai Shu Jin), Ying-hsien Kao (Huang Lei), Yue-Lin Ko (Liang Jun Sheng), Johnson Yuen (Auyang Ling Wen / Mr. Mak), Kar Lok Chin (Tsao), Su Yan (Ma Tai Tai), Caifei He (Hsiao Tai Tai), Ruhui Song (Wang's Aunt), Anupam Kher (Khalid Saiduddin), Liu Jie (Leung Tai Tai).
Japanese Resistance uses a young virgin to seduce Chinese collaborator during the Japanese occupation of Shanghai with surprising consequences
Spoiler Warning -- below is a summary of the entire summary.
Japanese occupied Shanghai, 1942. Residential compound of the Chinese Collaborationist Government.
A group of women are playing mahjong. Yee Tai Tai is the wife of Mr. Yee, a collaborator with the Japanese occupiers. The newcomer to the game is the pretty Mak Tai Tai.
General Taicho is still looking for the American arms shipment.
Mak Tai Tai leaves for a 3 p.m. meeting. She looks around. She then goes to Kiessling's cafe. That is the signal. A group of Chinese men grab their weapons and rush out.
Flashback. Four years earlier. 1938.
A group of friends iat the university are interested in the theater. They meet and discuss matters. The news is that the Japanese have taken Guang-Chou. Wong Chia Chi says that her father and brother are in England. Wong and Lai Shu Jin go to the movies.
The group of performers decide to put on a play, a patriotic drama. It is a big success with the audience. There is a party afterwards. The group toasts to their leading lady, Wong.
The group thinks that Wang Jingwei and his so-called "Peace Movement" is composed of traitors; running dogs for the Japanese. Mr. Yee is recruiting for them in Hong Kong. The leader of the drama group is Kuang. He comes up with the idea of infiltrating Yee's household as a means to assassinating the Japanese lackey. They will have to go to Hong Kong to do this. Kuang says his brother Tsao can introduce them to Mr. Yee. Auyang will be Mr. Mak, the businessman, and Wong will be his wife.
Tsao introduces Mr. Mak and his wife Mak Tai Tai to both Mr. Yee and his wife Yee Tai Tai. Mr. Yee has work to do, but Yee Tai Tai is going shopping with Mrs. Mak at Tsim Sha Tsui. Kuang plays the part of Mr. Mak's cousin.
After the shopping is over the drama group gets together. Kuang says that there is no way they can get to Mr. Yee at his house. There are just too many guards there, says Auyang. But one good thing going for them is that Mrs. Yee likes Wong.
The four women play mahjong again. Mrs. Mak suggests a good restaurant. Mr. Yee is going to a party given by Wang Jingwei's wife. A driver takes Mrs. Mak back home.
The men of the drama group practice firing their pistols at the beach. One of the wealthier people in the group complains that the expenses of this assassination are too high. This is especially true of Wong who needs fancy outfits to seduce Mr. Yee. Kuang agrees that it is a problem that he frankly did not foresee. And they will all need to be more careful about spending too much money.
The group of four mahjong players are missing one of their members. They get Mr. Yee to sit in for her.
The drama group is having a good time. They listen to music, drink and do a little dancing.
Mr. Yee takes Mrs. Mak shopping. She tries on a nice dress. Yee tells her to leave it on. He buys the dress for her. Later they go out to dinner. Mrs. Mak reconfirms that she is married. Mr. Yee takes her home. The drama group grab their weapons. They hope to kill Mr. Yee when Wong brings him into the apartment. But to their surprise, Wong shows up in the apartment alone. She explains that Mr. Yee is very cautious and would not come in.
Wong says that she will become Mr. Yee's mistress. But Wong is a virgin. Kuang and some others wonder what she is going to do. So Wong decides she will need some experience. So she and Liang, the only guy with sexual experience, have somewhat stilted sex in one of the rooms. Everyone is quiet at breakfast the next morning. But Wong wants more practice so she and Liang do it again, but this time she is on top. Liang tells her: "I think you're getting the hang of it."
Yee Tai Tai telephones Mrs. Mak. She tells her that they are moving back to Shanghai. Mrs. Mak asks her: "You're leaving just like that?" Yes. Mrs. Mak tells Mrs. Yee to have a safe trip. Wong smokes. Tsao comes to see the drama group. He has figured out what they are up to and he is going to blackmail them. He wants ten tael of gold from them. But the group is in no mood to be blackmailed. The guys wrestle with Tsao, but he is a big guy and they are having problems. So his brother knifes Tsao in the belly. Tsao looks so shocked that his brother would stab him, but Kuang says: "You work for a traitor! You should know what's coming!" But Tsao is still alive. So he is stabbed multiple times. He is still not dead and starts to walk out. So he is stabbed in the back several times. And still he goes on. He falls down the stairs and Kuang breaks his neck with his hands. Upset Wong leaves the group to go back to Shanghai.
Shanghai, three years later. There are dead Chinese men in the street. The Chinese wait in long lines for food. Other Chinese have to pick up the dead off the streets and place them in a wagon. Wong goes to see the movie "Suspicion" with Cary Grant and Joan Fontaine. When Japanese propaganda newsreels come on, many of the Chinese go to get more refreshments. Kuang sees Wong at the movie. He tells Wong that in Hong Kong they were being watched. The Resistance cleaned up the mess and smuggled them out off the island. The Resistance group is in support of the assassination of Mr. Yee. The Resistance has killed the mayor of Shanghai and the chief of the public concession.
Wong tells Kuang that her father wrote her to tell her that she couldn't come to England. He wanted her to stay with her Aunt Jen. She says that these past years she has felt so empty and hollow. Kuang tells her that the job is not finished. Yee is now in charge of Wang Jingwei's secret service. He's officially in charge of the police. He murders judges, journalists, and anyone who supports the Resistance plus their agents.
Kuang introduces Wong to Old Wu of the Chinese Resistance. They talk about her continuing to try to seduce Yee. Wong tells them that she can do it. The men emphasize that once she is in there, there's no turning back. Old Wu says after the mission they will send her to be with her father in England.
As Mrs. Mak, Wong renews her acquaintance with Mrs. Yee. And they play mahjong again. Wong goes up to the guest room to get Palmer's cigarettes for Mrs. Yee. Mr. Yee comes to her room. He is very happy to see her. Wong gives Kuang the floor plan of the house. She also says that she needs money.
Yee sends his driver for Mrs. Mak. He drives her to a building. The driver gives her a note with a room number on it. He says the car will wait for her. Mrs. Mak goes up to see Yee in room 2B. Yee goes slow at first, but then suddenly starts ripping her clothes off. He takes his belt off and hits her with it. Then he uses the belt to tie her hands behind her back. They engage in rough sex. After sex Yee smokes and watches as Mrs. Mak sleeps. Later he leaves.
Mrs. Yee tells Mrs. Mak that her husband is in Nanjing. Mrs. Yee is going out, but Mrs. Mak stays behind with a "headache". Yee comes into her room. She tells him that he has been gone for four days and she is mad at him. But soon they are having sex again. When they finish she says he should get her an apartment
Kuang tells Wong that some of their top people have been arrested. They raided a bunch of their safe houses. Auyang was able to get away. Kuang tells Wong: "I won't let you get hurt. I won't allow it." Wong returns to the Yee household.
She can't sleep and goes to look for Yee. She finds him burning documents. She tells him that she has been waiting up for him. Yee tells her that they busted a Resistance cell and got twelve agents. Having not seen him lately, Mrs. Mak asks Yee is there is someone else? She also says that he will get tired of her. She starts to leave. Yee tells her: "Don't ever come into this room again!"
Mrs. Mak waits in the car. She has been waiting over two hours. Yee finally gets into the car. He tells her that they have arrested two very important men at the train station, members of the Resistance. Yee and Mrs. Mak have sex again. It seems obvious that Wong is getting too much pleasure out of this.
Old Wu and Kuang meet with Wong. They say that she is a very good agent. Yee killed two of the women agents they sent to seduce him. Kuang is concerned about Wong. He tells the leader that she has done her duty and now they should take it from here. Old Wu says that she must stay in there to get more information from Yee. Kuang disagrees and Old Wu gets angry. He says that Yee murdered his wife and his two children. If he can be patient, so can Kuang. Wong says she can do the job.
But it doesn't seem that she can. She rambles about her adventures with Yee and she embarrasses Old Wu with her intimate descriptions of their sexual relations. She keeps on talking even after Old Wu tells her twice that that's enough description. He finally has to yell at her to stop it. Kuang is also upset by her crazed descriptions.
Wong has to go to the Japanese district. This makes her feel uncomfortable. She goes to a geisha house to meet Yee. Japanese Colonel Nakamura is drunk and he thinks Wong is one of the geishas and tries to grab her. He falls down so his grabbing efforts are not successful. The geisha hostess gets her out of there. She takes her to be with Yee. Mrs. Mak asks Yee why did he ask her to come to the Japanese district? He says that he just finished some business. Yee mentions: "All our days are numbered since the Americans entered the war." They kiss.
Yee tells Mrs. Mak that he wants her to take a letter for him to jeweler Khalid Saeed Uddin. Wong gives the letter to Old Wu. He steams open the letter. There is only a business card inside. Kuang tells Old Wu that he fears that Wong is suspected of being a spy. When he is alone with Wong he kisses her. She pushes him away and says: "You could have done that three years ago. Why didn't you?" Kuang does not answer.
Wong goes to the jeweler. She notices that virtually all the drama gang is there looking out for her. She gives the letter to the jeweler. He shows her three beautiful gemstones and tells her she can pick out one of them. She does not choose, so he shows her a fourth stone, a huge diamond.
Wong calls Kuang. She says she's calling from Kiessling's Cafe. This is the signal for the assassination attempt to go into effect.
Back to the present. Yee arrives to pick up Mrs. Mak. She tells him she wants to go back into the jewelry shop. The ring should be ready. Yee goes with her. The ring is a huge, gaudy thing. She starts getting teary eyed over Yee's generosity and she tells him: "Go, now!" Yee realizes what she has told him, rushes out of the shop and literally dives into his waiting car. The car drives off, thus foiling any assassination attempt.
Wong takes a rickshaw to go meet her lover. But she runs into a blockage where no one can go farther. So now she is stuck and can't get to her man. She probably knows that now the Chinese will be out to kill her. She pulls out her cyanide pill from its hiding place and considers taking it.
Yee's assistant tells him that they have caught all six of the members of the patriotic drama group at Hong Kong University. They almost got Old Wu, but he slipped away. He asks Yee if he wants to interrogate Wong himself? But all the rest have already been broken and have given them everything they need. So Wong says it won't be necessary to interrogate Wong. He tells his assistant to take the prisoners to the South Quarry and take care of them by 10 p.m. The assistant places Wong's ring meant for Wong on the desk. Yee denies that it's his ring.
The drama group from Hong Kong University is marched over to the edge of the South Quarry. They are to be shot in the head and then be pushed into the deep pit. The other woman in the group looks at Wong with a mixture of hate and fear. Kuang is placed next to Wong. He too looks at her, but with what looks like a mixture of disappointment and disgust.
Yee goes home and sits in Wong's old room. and thinks about her. His wife comes up to ask him what happened? He just tells her to go downstairs and say nothing.
Pretty powerful drama. And what a surprise of an ending! The movie got off to a very slow start and I was getting impatient with it. But it picks up toward the end, beginning with the second attempt to seduce and assassinate Mr. Yee, the Chinese collaborator with the Japanese. There are many questions one has about the behavior of the drama group and Old Wu of the Resistance. Why would they pick a virgin to be a seducer? She had to lose her virginity to prepare for her dangerous espionage role. And why pick a virgin when she is not a kid anymore? That in itself indicates a certain amount of immaturity. She has had no experience with love and sex and that should have been a disqualification for espionage.
Wong's life would have been a short one anyway. Having her espionage cover blown and her betrayal of her country and her colleagues and friends also known, both the Chinese and the Japanese would have wanted to kill her. For all intents and purposes, when she told Yee to run for it, she chose to commit suicide.
Is it believable that someone who would risk her life for her country, would suddenly turn her back on her country and her colleagues and friends? It really doesn't seem likely. And how could such a woman fall in love with a murderer and a betrayer of his country? I think one has to conclude that Wong was a very immature person. Having no experience with love and sex, she was overwhelmed by these sensations into becoming a traitor. The only thing one might say is that she became "temporarily insane" and lost all judgment and common sense. But I don't think the latter is an acceptable answer. So I would go with the idea that she was just terribly immature.
To tell the truth, I wanted to see Ms. Wong be shot in the head by the Japanese. The Japanese like the Germans in World War II were monsters that had to be literally destroyed. There was no reasoning with them. It would be like trying to deal with a rabid dog. You shoot it, not fall in love with it.
It's a crazy ending, but an effective one. It sure got my wife's and my temperatures up!
Oh, by the way, the sex scenes are hot and justify in itself the purchase of the DVD.
Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.
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