When Sex Doesn't Sell

Can an erotic movie from an A-list director change the way people regard adults-only films?

Chan Kam Chuen / Focus Features

Tony Leung and Ang Wei star in Ang Lee’s Lust, Caution, .

The film is gliding along, well into its second hour of stately intrigue, as a young woman in Japanese-occupied China woos a Chinese collaborator, hoping to get close enough to kill him. Then the man (Hong Kong star Tony Leung Chiu-wai) takes the woman (newcomer Tang Wei) to bed, and Ang Lee's Lust, Caution becomes a different movie. In three startling sex scenes, the two actors mime first a brutal seduction, then a sadomasochistic pas de deux, then the flexing of the woman's wiles until she has achieved erotic control of her prey.

Two years ago, Lee won a Best Director...

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