Set in Shanghai during WWII, “Lust, Caution,” directed by Ang Lee, 2007, is a marvel of restraint. Wang Jiazhi, played by Wei Tang, gets swept up in a wave of patriotism and activism that ultimately **SPOILER ALERT **destroys her. Coveted costumes by Lai Pan.
Wang goes undercover to seduce and entrap Mr. Yee, played meticulously by Tony Leung Chiu Wai. Mr. Yee collaborates with the Japanese occupiers to mercilessly silence the resistance. Along the way Mr. Yee falls in love with Wang, and Wang, against her will, falls in love with Mr. Yee.
The film is plotted brilliantly and at first you think that Mr. Yee is going to get his just desserts, but he is saved by Wang who ultimately cannot let him be killed.
Be forewarned, there is some freaky deaky sex here. Tony Leung is not the sweet forlorn Tony Leung in “Chungking Express,” he is a hardened, masochistic, soulless being. It’s not gratuitous, it’s to show the evolution of the relationship. At first Mr. Yee practically assaults her, she is just something to be conquered and humiliated in his eyes. Next, it becomes more like mutual lust. Lastly, Wang succumbs to her growing feelings and makes love to him, and his hardened heart softens and lets her in. The bedroom is the only place they can let down their guard safely.
Ok, so let’s talk about the clothes. Shanghai has always fascinated me. It’s always been a diverse city because of it’s trading stature. Russians, Middle Eastern people, Americans, Europeans have always lived there and established businesses there. The people living there adopt things from other cultures that they like giving the nature of the clothes a truly modern mashup of influences.
**SPOILER ALERT** At the end, Wang realizes the price of her mercy to Yee as she and her friends stare down an endless abyss that is to be their grave. It shows you that in the fog of war, an act of humanity can cost you your life.
If you’re designing for FALL, this would make a great springboard.
HOMEWORK: find a great trench and rain hat. Let’s put our umbrellas in storage.