Friday, October 26, 2007

Movie Review: Lust, Caution

This is one of those movies that the less is said about it, the better.

I liked it.

It is staying with me, persistently urging itself like a child tugging at my dress whenever I see a certain shade of blue or whenever I apply my usual red lipstick. It is not a film of great visual scope--unlike Brokeback Mountain, which depended on the wide horizontal frame of Wyoming to encourage a different sort of openness. This was a movie of coat hems, mahogany banisters, hats, cigarettes, mahjong tiles, and lipstick stains on coffee cups. This is a movie that focused on the very particular things that encroach on the mind and heart until you give up in resignation or abandonment. I woke up thinking about it.

Sexual politics map onto real world politics in a ridiculous, ill-fitting way. But they nevertheless map on, as it is not difficult to extend the metaphor of women used as pawns in war as well as love. The brutality, misogyny, and masochism inflicted on the naive-yet-cunning lead actress--by both her lover and her Resistance leaders--is it any wonder that she did herself in? Whose sacrifice? Whose side was she on? Certainly not her own. Perhaps she was really in love in a naive sort of way, perhaps she succumbed to a Stockholm-like perverse sympathy to her lover/abuser, or perhaps she finally realized her Resistance leaders did not care for her--or perhaps all of the above.

This movie makes no grand moralizing statements, but it does ask these questions. I have no answers.

But I do have lingering visual memories that suggest one sort of answer above another, because taken in the aggregate, a series of images and moments tell as much of a story as a grand narrative with a big statement set against a wide vista (and yes, I loved Brokeback Mountain).