Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB. USA/China/Taiwan/Hong Kong, 2007. Haishang Films, Focus Features, River Road Entertainment, Sil-Metropole Organisation, Shanghai Film Group. Story by Eileen Chang, Screenplay by James Schamus, Hui-ling Wang. Cinematography by Rodrigo Prieto. Produced by William Kong, Ang Lee. Music by Alexandre Desplat. Production Design by Lai Pan. Costume Design by Lai Pan. Film Editing by Tim Squyres. Golden Globe Awards 2007. Independent Spirit Awards 2007. Toronto International Film Festival 2007.
Six university students in 1938 China decide that the tyranny of Japanese invasion and occupation will not be abided, forming a resistance group that seeks to kill Chinese collaborators. One of their members is a young woman (Wei Tang) who joined their group, originally a theatrical troupe putting on nationalist-themed plays, because of her muted love for its leader, and it is this affection that impels her to do whatever is necessary to achieve the little band’s aims. Their particular target is a collaboration recruiter (Tony Chiu Wai Leung) who finds himself attracted to Wei, an attraction she agrees to exploit in order to bring her target closer to his end; this is an Ang Lee film, however, and in Lee’s stories there is never any scheme that can resist the fallibility of human emotion. The great director has followed his rugged, heartbreaking Brokeback Mountain with a gorgeously-etched period piece that simply oozes beauty from every pore, soaked in tender emotions that are then contrasted with some wonderfully sexy scenes of rough’n’tumble erotica. Wei is a knockout in the lead, mesmerizing from beginning to end, and she is ably supported by a strong cast whose supporting standout has to be Joan Chen as Leung’s wife. Listen for yet another exquisite score by the phenomenally talented Alexandre Desplat.