I did go onto Second Life some time after eleven last night. I played one quick game of chess, then signed off and finally watched Lust, Caution. I mentioned Vertigo and Notorious as being influences on me in the CHUD interview, so it's kind of interesting to see that the two Hitchcock films seem to've been an influence on Ang Lee's newest film. Or so it seems to me. Actually, although it's rated NC-17, the movie's a far more innocent tale than either Hitchcock film. It most closely resembles Notorious as it features a woman making love to a man in the course of her mission as a secret agent to undermine his security and work.* But the title of Notorious refers to the fact that Ingrid Bergman's Alicia Huberman was viewed as a "certain kind of woman" for whom making love to someone under false pretences would not be objectionable. Notorious is about someone who would seem to be bad, is called upon to do bad things, and yet is clearly good. While Lust, Caution is about an innocent student who finds herself doing things she would consider to be bad and wondering if she's still a good person underneath. It's not the breathtaking high wire act Hitchcock managed, but it's still a wonderful film.
The film's Bernard Herrmann-ish score reminded me of Vertigo, as did Wong Chia Chi being made over in both clothing and character by powerful men to accomplish their goals. Notorious had a little of that, too, but not as extravagantly as Vertigo.
Roger Ebert's review of Lust, Caution makes note of the film's languor, which is a deviation from the Hitchcock mould. And although it's a positive review, Ebert observes Lust, Caution is not among Ang Lee's best films; "It lacks the focus and fire that his characters finally find." Which is also true. More than any other Ang Lee movie, this one seems to exist just to be pretty a lot of the time.
My favourite scene featured Wong Chia Chi singing in Mandarin to the man she was deceiving in a private room of a Geisha house, which I suppose said something about how the characters' essential Chinese nature came through even in the midst of the Japanese occupation, but mostly it was just sort of lovely and strange.
*Ingrid Bergman's character defines herself as a Mata Hari and she did know what she was talking about.